HOUSTON - The U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to hear a Texas case that has now made it legal for someone with a domestic violence restraining order against them to keep their guns. We spoke with an organization that's hoping to influence the supreme court's decision.
In Harris County, the District Attorney's Office sees more domestic violence cases than any other crime.
A lot of people are keeping a close eye on this case after the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a federal law early this year, saying it's unconstitutional to take away accused abusers' guns after a restraining order is granted.
"This is an alarming, potentially devastating rollback in vital protection measures," says Houston Area Women's Center President Emilee Whitehurst.
The Houston Area Women's Center is one of dozens of organizations working with attorneys to file briefings and submit them to the U.S. Supreme Court. All in the hope of persuading the justices to rule in favor of making it illegal for people who have domestic violence restraining orders against them to have a gun.
"These firearms are taken away from people who've already been found by a court to be dangerous to an intimate partner," explains Attorney Connie Pfeiffer who's working with HAWC in this case on filing the Amicus Briefing.
"If a firearm is involved in a domestic violence situation, that person is five times more likely to be killed," Whitehurst adds.
"In Harris County, we file over 15,000 cases of domestic violence (annually). That tells us how bad it is. It's a pandemic," explains Kelly Marshall, who's a prosecutor in the Harris County District Attorney's Office Domestic Violence Division.
A large part of trying to keep domestic violence victims safe is doing things such as prohibiting the abuser access to weapons.
"We can figure out what conditions would most likely keep that person safe. So that's a huge thing right away. There's bond conditions, a Magistrate's Order for Emergency Protection," Marshall adds.
Since 1994, a federal law has allowed courts to take guns from abusers who are the subject of a restraining order. However, that law was overturned in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. In February 2023, the Fifth Circuit Court ruled it unconstitutional after hearing the case of Zackey Rahimi, who's accused of assaulting his girlfriend and of carrying out five different shootings.
"The 5th Circuit has held that that law is unconstitutional so that he is entitled to have his firearm because he's short of a criminal conviction," says Pfeiffer.
"I hope the Supreme Court will not decide a constitutional right to a gun should trump the safety of women and children," adds Whitehurst.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to consider this matter next week.
Click here if you would like to sign a Houston Area Women's Center petition against allowing abusers to legally have access to guns.