Supreme Court Upholds DV Gun Ban

(03/26/2014)

Today, the United States Supreme Court ruled that people convicted of minor domestic violence offenses can be barred from possessing guns. They also ruled that this law can be enforced even in states where no proof of physical force is required to support the domestic violence charge.

"This ruling saves lives," says Safe Nest director of community relations, Lisa Lynn Chapman. "According to a 2002 study, domestic violence assaults that involve a firearm are 12 times more likely to result in a homicide."

Today’s  ruling stemmed from the case, United States vs. Castleman, in which James Alvin Castleman pled guilty to misdemeanor domestic assault in Tennessee in 2001. In his case, it was alleged that he intentionally or knowingly caused bodily injury to the mother of his child. Seven years later, it was discovered that Castleman and his wife were buying firearms and selling them on the black market.

The Supreme Court ruled against Castleman despite efforts to convince a federal court that he was not guilty of illegal gun possession.  His argument held that the Tennessee definition did not satisfy the federal law as a qualifying act of domestic violence.  Each state has its own definition of domestic violence.

The Court upheld that minor use of physical force constitutes a misdemeanor offense and should be taken seriously. While misdemeanor domestic violence offenses often consist of seemingly minor acts such as pushing, grabbing, shoving, slapping, and hitting compared to more exceedingly violent acts.  It is important to understand that smaller acts of violence are used by abusers to establish power and control over an intimate partner and frequently escalate.  With a gun present, the likelihood of a victim being killed increases exponentially.

Last year the Safe Nest shelter provided close to 18,000 nights of shelter to 540 women and 553 children, provided hotline services for 36,845 crisis callers and processed 1,983 emergency protection orders

Established in 1977, Safe Nest is Nevada’s -- largest and most comprehensive non-profit agency devoted solely to domestic violence issues. Serving over 50,000 persons annually, Safe Nest programs include shelter, counseling, advocacy, and prevention education.  For more information, please call 702-877-0133.

Center for Gun Policy and Research, John Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Intimate Partner Violence and Firearms." www. http://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/johns-hopkins-center-for-gun-policy-and-research/publications/IPV_Guns.pdf accessed on January 24, 2014