Gun control head gaslighting over Rahimi case

AP Photo/Josh Reynolds

Get ready for a lot of nonsense like this from the anti-gun crowd between now and the Supreme Court’s oral arguments in U.S. v. Rahimi, which will likely be heard sometime this fall or early next year.


I don’t think any Second Amendment supporter would call Zachey Rahimi the poster child for the right to keep and bear arms, but Everytown and the rest of the gun groups are going to try to turn him into the second coming of Charlton Heston over the next few months. Rahimi may very well be an awful and dangerous person who should be prohibited from owning a firearm, but that is not the question that the Supreme Court is being asked to answer. Instead, the question is whether someone who is subject to a civil protective order can be barred from possessing a firearm before they’ve been convicted of any criminal offense.

The DOJ along with every gun control group out there believes that the answer is “no”, and that should also apply to virtually anyone who can’t be described as a “law-abiding citizen”. As the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals noted in rejecting the DOJ’s position that the current law forbidding gun ownership for those subject to a domestic violence restraining order, the DOJ’s argument is lacking any sort of limiting principle, which means even a minor traffic infraction or a jaywalking ticket could also be cause to lose your right to keep and bear arms forevermore.


It’s also worth noting (because the anti-gun side certainly won’t bother to point this out) that prosecutors could have attempted to disarm Rahimi by other means, but chose not to do so.

Zachey Rahimi wasn’t barred from owning a firearm as a result of any of the serious crimes he was later accused of committing, but because he had violated a civil order of protection. The Fifth Circuit, along with almost everyone else in the country, acknowledges the seriousness of domestic violence, but found no historical analogues to prohibiting gun possession because of a protective order issued in civil court, especially one that can be routinely issued even absent any implied or explicit threat of violence. As the court wrote in Footnote 7 of its decision in Rahimi:

The distinction between a criminal and civil proceeding is important because criminal proceedings have afforded the accused substantial protections throughout our Nation’s history. In crafting the Bill of Rights, the Founders were plainly attuned to preservation of these protections. See U.S. Const. amend. IV; U.S. Const. amend. V; U.S. Const. amend. VI; U.S. Const. amend. VIII. It is therefore significant that § 922(g)(8) works to eliminate the Second Amendment right of individuals subject merely to civil process.


The Court again took up the issue of civil versus criminal courts a little later on in its opinion, rejecting the government’s contention that several colonial-era statutes that subjected those believe to be “going armed” with an intent to terrorize or commit crimes to forfeit their firearms were historical analogues to § 922(g)(8).

… on substance, the early “going armed” laws that led to weapons forfeiture are not relevantly similar to § 922(g)(8). First, those laws only disarmed an offender after criminal proceedings and conviction. By contrast, § 922(g)(8) disarms people who have merely been civilly adjudicated to be a threat to another person—or, who are simply governed by a civil order that “by its terms explicitly prohibits the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force,” § 922(g)(8)(C)(ii), whether or not there is a “credible threat to the physical safety” of anyone else, § 922(g)(8)(C)(i). Rahimi’s domestic violence restraining order satisfied both conditions; but it bears emphasis that the order at issue here was entered by agreement, in a civil proceeding, after Rahimi apparently waived hearing (the order states no formal hearing was held, and no record was created), and without counsel or other safeguards that would be afforded him in the criminal context. These distinctions alone defeat the “going armed” laws as useful analogues for § 922(g)(8).

Moreover, the “going armed” laws, like the “dangerousness” laws discussed above, appear to have been aimed at curbing terroristic or riotous behavior, i.e., disarming those who had been adjudicated to be a threat to society generally, rather than to identified individuals. And § 922(g)(8) works to disarm not only individuals who are threats to other individuals but also every party to a domestic proceeding (think: divorce court) who, with no history of violence whatever, becomes subject to a domestic restraining order that contains boilerplate language that tracks § 922(g)(8)(C)(ii). In other words, where “going armed” laws were tied to violent or riotous conduct and threats to society, § 922(g)(8) implicates a much wider swath of conduct, not inherently dependent on any actual violence or threat. Thus, these “going armed” laws are not viable historical analogues for § 922(g)(8).


Zachey Rahimi may be a bad guy, but that’s not the question before the Court even though that’s how anti-gunners will continue to frame the case. Instead, this is about whether § 922(g)(8) is a bad law. If a majority of the Court concludes that it is, that doesn’t mean they’re minimizing domestic violence or working to arm abusers. It simply means that the government can’t do an end run around our individual rights in the name of public safety; that efforts to combat domestic abuse and disarm dangerous abusers must comport with the protections guaranteed to the people by the Bill of Rights. In the case of Zachey Rahimi that could have included prosecutors seeking to hold him in custody based on a perceived threat to the community, but instead they chose to rely on a piece of paper to keep him away from firearms; a strategy that failed, incidentally, since the entire reason the Rahimi case is going before SCOTUS is because that restraining order didn’t work, and he was caught with a gun after being told not to possess one.

That’s yet another inconvenient truth that the anti-gunners will gloss over or ignore completely while spinning their preferred narrative around this case. The truth is if we’re dealing with dangerous people a piece of paper offers little-to-no protection whatsoever to those actually in danger, while the civil courts offer few protections of their own to those who pose no danger to others or themselves.

It remains to be seen whether there are enough votes on the Court to adopt the Fifth Circuit’s view, but the goal of the gun control lobby is to obfuscate the facts of this case as much as possible between now and the release of their decision, and the gaslighting is only going to get worse as the date for oral arguments gets closer.


Join the conversation as a VIP Member