A key component of the Supreme Court's 6-2 decision to uphold the ban is the difference between the words "reckless" and "intentional," Rachel Louise Snyder reports for The New Yorker. The case involved two men, Stephen Voisine and William Armstrong, who had a history of guns and domestic violence. "The defendants’ lawyer had argued that the men’s conduct toward their domestic partners was not intentional but rather merely 'reckless.' Or, to put it another way, neither man had meant to hurt anyone."
|Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan|
One of the problems is that "most domestic-violence incidents across the U.S. are charged as misdemeanors, though they are often part of a larger pattern of violence," Snyder writes. "Though most states list non-fatal strangulation as a felony, about a dozen still make it a misdemeanor charge. The burden of proof for victims can be impossibly high given that often there are no witnesses, no corroboration, and sometimes no visible injury at all. (Only 15 per cent of strangulations have evidence visible enough to photograph.)"
"For the National Rifle Association, the issue in the Voisine case was the question of 'recklessness,' and whether that term was too broadly construed," Snyder writes. "Writing at the time the case was heard, the NRA argued that 'an individual who injures a family member while recklessly driving could commit a qualifying domestic violence offense, potentially resulting in a permanent ban on firearm possession." Kagan wrote, “If a person lets slip a door that he is trying to hold open for his girlfriend, he has not actively employed (‘used’) force even though the result is to hurt her. But if he slams the door shut with his girlfriend following close behind, then he has done so—regardless of whether he thinks it absolutely sure or only quite likely that he will catch her fingers in the jamb.”
Snyder writes, "Even the existence of a federal ban on firearm possession for misdemeanors or felonies doesn’t mean that the statutes are enforced—police are often loath to ask abusers about guns, small jurisdictions frequently have no central storehouse, background checks might not turn up domestic-violence charges and judges may not order abusers to relinquish guns." (Read more)