Supreme Court ruling hailed as victory for domestic abuse victims
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A major ruling by the Supreme Court is being hailed as a victory for domestic violence victims, but guns rights groups said the decision goes too far.
The ruling is aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of anyone convicted of domestic violence, no matter how minor the offense .
Before the new ruling, if you struck a spouse or harmed them with a weapon you would lose your gun rights. That didn't prompt much debate, but the new ruling has, because it would go on to include things like squeezing a spouse or child's arm to cause a bruise. In some states, even just verbal abuse will get you convicted of a misdemeanor.
The ruling is a relief to local domestic violence shelters who say batterers should not be allowed to have guns no matter how minor their abuse is.
Channel 4 spoke to Peggy Payne, the CEO of Quigly House, a domestic violence shelter in Clay County.
"It has historically been proven that people who have been convicted of a misdemeanor are much more likely to assault their victim with that weapon," she said.
Payne also says abusers often re-offend.
"They're very angry because now people know they've been arrested and may lose their jobs or be put on probation. If they're law enforcement or in the military it could cause them to lose their job and blame the victim for that instead of taking responsibility. "
And that brings up the area in the ruling that some people feel is too broad. Rod Sullivan is a professor at Florida Coastal School of Law. He said this could have a huge impact.
"It could be an unwelcome kiss, a slap, a shove or a push," Sullivan said. "Theoretically, it could also be verbal abuse, or emotional abuse, or financial abuse. All these things are up for grabs when it comes to losing right to a firearm."
Many guns rights groups aren't happy with this ruling. Eric Friday is lead counsel for the group Florida Carry. He said in many domestic violence cases abusers are just hit with what's called an injunction and never tried in front of a jury or put in jail.
"This is a problem," Friday said. "No other right can be taken away from you without the right to counsel, or without the right to trial by jury, except the right to carry a gun and it can be taken away at the will of a judge."
One Supreme Court justice who's not totally happy with the ruling is Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. He wrote a separate concurring opinion ridiculing the court for saying that "offensive touching" is a reason to lose gun rights.
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