The Supreme Court’s Gun Ruling Could Have A Big Impact On Gun Control

The NRA was right: big government really will take away your guns. That is, if you have multiple criminal charges against you and are already prohibited from owning firearms. In what could potentially be a landmark case for gun control in America, the Supreme Court upheld a federal ban on gun ownership for people charged with domestic abuse Monday. The defendant in the case, Stephen Voisine, was convicted of assaulting his girlfriend in 2003 and 2005 and lost the legal right to possess firearms as a result. When he was sentenced to prison for shooting a bald eagle in 2009, it was discovered that he was in unlawful possession of a gun.

The reason the case made it all the way to the Supreme Court was a dispute over how far the ban on firearms extended. It even got Justice Clarence Thomas to ask questions in a case for the first time in ten years, albeit in favor of Voisine. Voisine’s lawyers claimed the assault was “reckless” rather than “intentional,” and that he should therefore be allowed to own a gun, as though “reckless” behavior makes it fine for a domestic abuser to have easy access to deadly weapons. Thankfully, the court decided that the ban still applied, stating that “guns and domestic violence are a lethal combination.”

This ruling could have huge implications for the future of gun control in America.

Gun control
CREDIT: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Less than a week ago, Democratic legislators in Congress staged a sit-in with the intent of holding a vote on gun control laws. When Speaker of the House Paul Ryan turned off the C-SPAN cameras and the sit-in was halted after 25 hours, many doubted the sit-in’s success. However, photos and updates from the sit-in had already spread across social media, alerting the government to how much America and the global community wanted to see politicians pushing for gun control and public safety.

And change is already happening. Hawaii recently became the first state to enroll gun owners on an FBI criminal monitoring database, which will alert local police whenever a gun owner anywhere in the state is arrested. (The Aloha State has very strict gun laws, including a prerequisite for certified safety training and the release of medical records in order to apply for a firearms permit. Openly carrying firearms is prohibited, and background checks take 14 days.)

The Supreme Court’s ruling against Voisine is the next step forward in enacting gun laws that actually protect the public. First a federal protest, then statewide legislation, then the Supreme Court. We may yet see workable, morally defensible gun control laws in our lifetime that value the general right to not get murdered over a constitutional misinterpretation. If only it hadn’t taken a horrific tragedy and the shattering of so many lives to get here.