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Statements on Unanimous Supreme Court Decision Today in United States V. Castleman to Prohibit Domestic Abusers from Having Guns

March 26, 2014

Decision Rejects Gun Lobby Argument to Arm Dangerous People; Protects Women and Children

United_states_supreme_court_buildingThe Supreme Court ruled unanimously today in United States v. Castleman that federal law bars people convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse charges from having guns. The Court’s opinion, by Justice Sotomayor, will help protect abused women and children from gun violence. Mayors Against Illegal Guns submitted an amicus brief in this case.

“Women and children are safer today because of the decision by the Supreme Court to enforce the federal law barring domestic abusers from possessing guns as it was intended,” said Mayors Against Illegal Guns Chairman John Feinblatt. “We know that access to a gun is what often turns domestic violence into domestic homicide – in fact, the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that a woman will be killed. The court wisely rejected the attempts by the Washington gun lobby to arm the very people who should not have guns in their hands and instead, stood with women, children and the law enforcement officers who protect them.”

“The stakes were high in this case – had the court ruled in the other direction, tens of thousands of dangerous convicted batterers would be legally allowed to possess guns once again – and it’s all part of a concerted effort by the gun lobby, through our courts and in our state legislatures, to make it easier for domestic abusers to have guns.” said Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America founder Shannon Watts. “Instead, the court agreed with chiefs of police of more than 50 major American cities, leading domestic violence groups and the American Academy of Pediatrics that these criminals should not be armed. American mothers are grateful that the Supreme Court voted to keep us and our children safe.”

The case involved a convicted domestic abuser and gun trafficker named James Castleman. Castleman was convicted under Tennessee law for a misdemeanor domestic assault on the mother of his child. Seven years later, federal agents discovered that Mr. Castleman was illegally trafficking guns. Federal law prohibits gun possession by anyone convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, and Castleman was charged with illegal gun possession because of his conviction for battering the mother of his child.

Castleman, backed by an amicus brief by the Gun Owners of America, argued that his conviction for domestic assault should not count as a prohibiting misdemeanor crime of domestic violence because only misdemeanors involving “strong or violent” force should prohibit gun possession. The Supreme Court unanimously rejected his argument.

Research on the role of guns in domestic violence situations has found that:

  • On average, 46 American women are shot to death each month by current or former intimate partners.
  • The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that the woman will be killed.
  • Over the past 25 years, more intimate partner homicides in the U.S. have been committed with guns than with all other weapons combined.
  • In 2011, 44% of women murdered with guns in the U.S. were killed by current or former intimate partners.
  • More than half of mass shootings involve domestic violence. In at least 57% of the mass shootings between January 2009 and September 2013, the shooter killed a current or former intimate partner or family member.
  • Women in the U.S. are 11 times more likely to be murdered with guns than women in other high-income countries.
  • In states that require background checks for all handgun sales, there are 38% fewer women murdered by intimate partners.

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