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Granting Gun Rights to Domestic Abusers Poses a Grave Threat to Womens’ Safety

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The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is putting womens’ lives in danger by ruling it unconstitutional to prohibit domestic abusers from owning guns. Despite the U.S. judicial system’s responsibility to protect civil rights and liberties for all, it continually fails to protect women. The recent revision in United States v. Rahimi highlights the government’s prioritization of the Second Amendment of bearing arms over the safety of its citizens. 

The right to bear arms holds a controversial position in American culture. It is an amendment that is both a source of pride to many and a symbol of mass destruction to others. This, however, should not be the case. Americans, specifically marginalized women, are still dying from gun violence. United States v. Rahimi serves as another example of policymakers being more concerned about preserving the Constitution’s original meaning than preventing racial and gender-based violence.  

Every month, an estimated 57 women are killed by an intimate partner with a firearm. This number will continue to grow as United States v. Rahimi sets a dangerous precedent for future cases regarding the Second Amendment. The decision was heavily affected by the Supreme Court’s Bruen decision that occurred in June 2022, which changed the legal framework for how the Second Amendment must be interpreted. In this case, the justices struck down a law in New York regarding the criteria for carrying a concealed weapon. The Bruen ruling decided that gun laws will now solely be evaluated on if they follow the original intent of the Second Amendment. Before, gun prohibition laws were held constitutional if the public safety outweighed the right to bear arms. By using originalism when interpreting the Second Amendment, the judicial courts are no longer required to consider the potential harm caused by the removal of these gun laws. Due to this change, in the February 2023 case of United States v. Rahimi, there was no mention of rising gun violence toward women, demonstrating the dismissal of gender issues at the judicial level. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals republished its opinion on March 2 following backlash, stating that this ruling was not aimed to hurt laws that prevent domestic abusers from possessing firearms. Despite their republished opinion, the court’s words contradict their actions, highlighting an inconsistency between their proclaimed beliefs and their rulings. 

The conservative shift in the judicial branch is having a profound impact on the country’s political landscape, specifically having a damaging effect on marginalized communities. Donald Trump was able to appoint 54 new federal appellate judges, which significantly increased the number of conservatives serving the Federal Circuit. These lifetime appointments are exercising their power to shape the interpretation and enforcement of laws for decades to come. They have the potential to not only shape the future of America’s politics, but also to reverse all the progress that has been made towards civil and gender rights. United States v. Rahimi was an example of this, as it was decided on an originalist perspective rather than taking into account how this ruling would detrimentally hurt women. People who have been proven dangerous should not be permitted the right to bear arms as it infringes on the most essential right — the right to life. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is enabling violence by allowing dangerous people access to weapons. 

The rollback of legal protections in United States v. Rahimi will impact women of color and transgender women most severely. Abusers attack these communities because they know police and the justice system fail to protect them. Police take reports of abuse less seriously in these communities and with suspicion and hostility. This is reflected in the homicide rates of Black women, which are three times higher than those of white women. At each point of the justice system, from police to judges, the organizations that are supposed to help protect the people are failing to serve their communities properly. The intersectionality of race and gender highlights the need to address how different forms of oppression, such as racism and sexism, cross and compound on each other. The overlapping of these factors is what causes women of color to be the most targeted group for hate crimes. 

The court’s blatant disregard for the safety of women in marginalized communities calls the legitimacy of their rulings into question. According to Gallup’s Confidence in Institution poll, 58% of Americans lack trust and confidence in the Supreme Court to protect their natural rights. Considering that the Supreme Court’s rulings have been ignored in the past, there is the possibility that these divisive rulings could cause the legislative and executive branches to intervene in the Court’s decisions. There is a limit to how long the Supreme Court can ignore public opinion in a deeply polarized nation. The Supreme Court must maintain its credibility and retain the trust of the public, but their continued harm against marginalized individuals  jeopardizes this. 

The ruling of United States v. Rahimi serves the white and wealthy. In the 233-year history of the Supreme Court, only seven justices have not been white males. The lack of diversity in the Supreme Court, and the overall judicial system, highlights how the courts need a diverse perspective in order for them to adequately protect the rights of all communities. By sticking to the original meaning of the Constitution, it favors white males as it prioritizes individual rights over public safety for all. Roe v. Wade being overturned, the rise of misogynistic figures such as Andrew Tate into mainstream media and the dangerous precedent set by the United States v. Rahimi case point to a disturbing trend that is threatening the safety and rights of women.

United States v. Rahimi is now among many instances of the judiciary branch stripping away protections of marginalized communities in favor of protecting the rights of people from privileged backgrounds. This ruling directly puts the lives of women and children in danger against gun violence, raising the question of whether the Judicial branch is committed to protecting the rights of all citizens equally. The Constitution was a good starting point in ensuring rights for all, but the justice system must evolve to be more inclusive.

Sriskandha Kandimalla is an Opinion Intern for the winter 2023 quarter. She can be reached at