In this morning's 6-2 Supreme Court decision, the crime of reckless domestic violence and abuse is now considered a misdemeanor that justifies firearms possession restriction. What does that mean? It means closing one of the many gaping loopholes in gun control legislation and cracking down on violent domestic crime. Most importantly, it means safer homes for those most at risk: women (especially women of color), LGBTQ+ folks, and children.
The Voisine v. United States decision extended the previous ruling in United States v. Castleman that declared the “firearms possession by convicted felons” illegal. So why wasn’t this a thing before?
On the books, there’s a distinction between recklessly and knowingly committing a crime, known as mens rea—their state of mind during their actions. Stephen Voisine, the man in question in this case for repeatedly becoming violent against his girlfriend, argued in court that actions charged as reckless shouldn’t be considered under the umbrella of crimes that would prevent him from buying a gun.
Virginia Villa, Voisine’s defender, argued that recklessness doesn’t necessarily constitute a “use of force.” This puts in perspective why this pretty big issue hasn't been put in the books before. She explained that she once had a client who plead guilty to a misdemeanor because he was running away from someone attacking him, and when he ran through a door and slammed it, it caught and broke the attacker’s fingers. Um, comparing a drunken assault on someone to an escape measure? I don't think so.
Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan wasn’t having this excuse either, and shot back remarks that almost closed the case right then. While in Villa’s example, the client didn’t mean to hurt the man running after him, he still did. In many domestic violence cases, Kagan explained, reckless conduct between the perpetrator and victim is what leads to violence—not the use of direct violent force. Tell 'em, girl!
Basically, the Court decided it was time to validate all the domestic violence that happens while the perpetrator is under the influence and otherwise in a volatile state that causes their actions to be executed recklessly. This is a win for feminism, equality in the home, and in finally making movements on reigning in this country’s insane, libertarian approach to gun-owning.
Yeah, it's about time.
If you want to listen to more of the case, here's a video of the whole ordeal—with dogs instead of justices (no cameras are allowed to film Supreme Court case proceedings)!
Images via Wikimedia Commons, Giphy.
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