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Gun ownership by domestic abusers headed to U.S. Supreme Court

Advocates for victims of domestic abuse in Pennsylvania know that the majority of murdered American women die at the hands of current or former intimate partners. For years, the Lautenberg Amendment has barred people from legally owning guns after a misdemeanor or felony domestic violence conviction. This federal law, however, has now been challenged by representatives for two men, and the case will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Specifically at issue is the language of the Lautenberg Amendment. Some legal experts predict that its wording could be too vague to be upheld by the Supreme Court. The amendment applies to all assault convictions regardless of whether the violence was committed intentionally, recklessly or impulsively. Lawyers for the two men plan to argue that reckless or impulsive acts made in the heat of the moment should be excluded from the gun ban.

Anti-violence groups have submitted amicus briefs opposing changes to the gun ban. A representative from one group, Everytown for Gun Safety, said lives depended on the decision of the court. Statistics about guns and domestic violence clearly show a relationship. Most mass shootings stem from domestic violence. States that have strong laws against gun possession by people named in restraining orders have achieved a 25 percent lower rate of firearm deaths committed by intimate partners.

A person experiencing domestic abuse could go to an attorney for advice about how to get a protective order. If the person is experiencing physical or sexual abuse, threats of bodily harm, or being stalked, then a court might authorize a temporary restraining order. An attorney might also inform the person about other common issues in such a situation like child custody or filing for divorce.

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