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US Supreme Court clarifies federal domestic violence gun ban

Domestic violence can be a troubling issue in any household. The issue of domestic violence can come up in several areas of court proceedings in Texas. Protective orders based upon allegations of family violence, for example, are civil court orders that a person may seek to prevent continuing violence. If a person is going through a divorce, the Texas Attorney General’s Office says that an application for a protective order must be filed where the family law case is pending. Family violence can also affect the divorce proceedings, especially if child custody is an issue in the divorce.

Domestic violence allegations can lead to life-long consequences if a person is accused of the offense. The United States Supreme Court issued a ruling late last month that says that a person convicted of a misdemeanor level offense is prohibited from possessing a firearm at any time after the conviction is entered.

The ruling came in a challenge to federal weapons charges filed against a man who had been convicted of a misdemeanor level domestic violence charge in 2001. In 2009, he was found in possession of firearms and was charged with a federal offense. The judge dismissed the charge and a federal appellate panel agreed that the government had not shown evidence of “violent contact with the victim” in the underlying misdemeanor case, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Supreme Court reviewed the 1996 statute banning people from possessing a gun after a domestic violence conviction, and overturned the lower courts. The high court, in a unanimous decision, ruled that proof of actual violence is not necessary under federal law to invoke the ban. Justice Sonia Sotomayor says in the recent opinion that, misdemeanor domestic violence charges in some states may be brought upon allegations of “pushing, grabbing, shoving, slapping and hitting,” according to the Times. The court says that if a shoving match leads to a domestic violence conviction, the federal law bans that person from possessing a firearm under penalty of law.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Supreme Court keeps guns away from those guilty of domestic violence,” David G. Savage, March 26, 2014

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