The Supreme Court’s decision on Voisine v United States on Monday is big news for domestic violence offenders. Basically the Court ruled against a Maine resident who argued that he should not have had to give up his right to own a gun despite a prior domestic violence conviction in state court. What this means is that if someone committed a domestic violence assault, even if “recklessly,” it would qualify as a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, thus triggering the federal ban on firearm possession.
The two men from Maine, Stephen Voisine and William Armstrong III, argued that their crimes didn’t qualify for the federal gun ban under the Lautenberg Amendment because their assaults were not knowingly or intentionally, but rather committed “recklessly.
The Supreme Court rejected their argument stating, “a person who assaults another recklessly uses force no less than one who carries out that same action knowingly or intentionally.”
It was not a unanimous decision, however. Justice Clarence Thomas shocked the courtroom when he challenged Assistant Solicitor General Ilana H. Eisenstein to give another example of where a misdemeanor criminal conviction could deprive a citizen of a Second Amendment right for a lifetime. She responded saying that Congress justified the ban because studies showed that people who previously battered their spouses “pose up to a six-fold greater risk of killing, by a gun, their family member.”
Thomas dissented against the majority for agreeing to allow a single reckless assault to strip an American citizen of an enshrined constitutional right to own guns. “We treat no other constitutional right so cavalierly,” he concluded.
Some background on the Voisine case:
Both men brought their cases to the Supreme Court after having lost their right to own firearms upon conviction of domestic violence misdemeanors. Voisine pleaded guilty to assaulting his girlfriend in 2003, and was convicted again of assaulting a girlfriend in 2005. Later in 2011, Voisine was convicted and sentenced to prison for killing a baby bald eagle and for illegally possessing a gun after his prior domestic-violence conviction.
Co-plaintiff, Armstrong, was convicted in 2002 and 2008 on a misdemeanor domestic-assault charges for beating his wife. Two years later, he was found to be in possession of six guns when police searched his house for marijuana. He was subsequently charged with illegal gun possession and sentenced to three years’ probation.
Imagine losing your right to own a gun for a misdemeanor reckless charge. I shudder to think of which rights American citizens will be stripped of next. Let freedom ring.