On February 2, 2023, a three-judge panel of the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the federal prohibition on gun possession for people subject to domestic violence civil protective orders is unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. This decision goes against decades of work done across the nation to prioritize survivor safety and remove deadly firearms from the hands of people causing harm in intimate relationships.
While this decision is deeply concerning and scary for many survivors and advocates, it is important to know that it does not currently impact or change the laws regarding the removal of firearms in Washington State.
What does this decision impact then?
The court’s decision only applies to the Fifth Circuit: Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana and there is no national injunction. If you live outside the 5th Circuit’s jurisdiction, this does not impact you yet.
The decision only strikes down federal law prohibiting persons subject to civil domestic violence protective orders access to firearms (18 USC § 922(g)(8)).
What does it not do?
It does NOT strike down federal law prohibiting access to firearms from persons convicted of domestic violence (18 USC § 922(g)(9)). This law still remains in effect.
The decision also does NOT overturn any state law that prohibits access to firearms from persons subject to domestic violence protective orders, even in a state within Fifth Circuit’s jurisdiction. For example, Texas and Louisiana state laws that prohibit access to firearms for persons subject to domestic violence protection orders remain in effect.
Why are we seeing less orders to surrender weapons then?
We are at a critical time legally for domestic violence survivors and legal protections offered to protect against gun violence. Even though the Rahimi case does not have a nationwide legal impact, there are state level challenges in the works and the Rahimi case is likely to be picked up by the Supreme Court of the United States.
One case in Washington that does impact orders to surrender weapons in criminal cases is State of Washington v. Flannery. In many parts of the state, this case is being cited as a reason to not enter orders to surrender weapons even in civil proceedings.
These are uncertain times, as much remains to be seen when it comes to what will happen about the future of firearms protections for survivors. One thing we know is true is that as a community, we will continue to find ways for survivors to live and love freely without fear and respond to the very real threats of violence that firearms remaining in the hands of abusive partners pose for survivors. Safety planning and community accountability are more important than ever as we explore new ways to keep each other safe.
If you have questions about what is happening in your county, please reach out to Heather Wehr (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Jake Fawcett (email@example.com) as we work together to find solutions to keep survivors safe.