Supreme Court Upholds Gun Ban for Domestic Violence Offenders

By: Amanda DiLiberto

Blog Category: Domestic Violence Issues and the Law, Economics, & Race

In 1996, Congress passed 18 U.S.C.S §922(g)(9), forbidding anyone convicted of “a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” to possess firearms.  In passing this law, Congress considered the strong connection between gun violence and domestic violence.

On March 24, 2014, the United States Supreme Court decided United States v. Castleman.  Here, the respondent, James Castleman, had been previously convicted under Tennessee law for the offense of having “intentionally or knowingly cause[d] bodily injury to his child’s mother.  Several years later, federal authorities discovered that Castleman was selling firearms illegally.  Castleman was charged with two counts of violating §922(g)(9).  The question before the Court was “whether this conviction qualifie[d] as a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.”

To be considered a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence,” an element of the crime must be “the use or attempted use of physical force.”  It is this phrase that the Court focused on throughout the majority of its analysis.

In its 9-0 decision, the Court concluded that the requirement of “physical force” was satisfied.  To aid in its decision, the Court reviewed Castleman’s original indictment.  The language of the indictment made it clear that the use of physical force was an element of Castleman’s conviction.  Thus Castleman’s conviction qualified as a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” under §922(g)(9).

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race. 

Sources:

United States v. Castleman, 572 S.Ct. 1 (2014).

18 U.S.C.S. § 922(g)(9).

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