The Supreme Court said a federal law barring people convicted of minor domestic violence offenses from possessing guns can be enforced even in states where no proof of physical force is required to support the domestic violence charge.
The justices reinstated charges against a Tennessee man who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic assault in 2002 Wednesday.
He was then charged in 2009 with illegal possession of a firearm. Lower courts threw out the gun charge because Tennessee law doesn't require physical or violent force to have been used in misdemeanor domestic assault.
The Supreme Court reversed that decision in an opinion by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
“You got to be disappointed when you get an adverse opinion from the final court,” Steven West, attorney for James Castleman, who challenged his charges, said by phone.
West said his client pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge but was not told at the time he would not be able to possess weapons as a condition of his conviction.
He said his client is disappointed by the ruling.
“There are going to be a lot of people like Mr. Castleman who really don't deserve to be charged with a federal crime and don't deserve to have their rights to have a fire arm taken away who are going to get caught up in what I would submit is an overly broad opinion,” West said.
Domestic violence prevention advocates, however, said the ruling is a victory.
“We are absolutely thrilled that the Supreme Court has upheld the federal law of banning guns for perpetrators of domestic violence,” Kathy England Walsh, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition against Domestic and Sexual Violence. “If we want to decrease domestic violence and domestic homicide in our state, we need to keep weapons away from offenders who should not have them.”
Walsh pointed out Tennessee has a state law that mirrors the Federal law which prohibits people convicted of domestic violence or who have an active order of protection against them from possessing guns.
Tennessee ranks sixth in the nation for women killed by men, according to the Violence Policy Center.
Sixty-seven percent of women killed by men were killed with a gun.
“It is critically important that we keep weapons away from offenders who are not supposed to have them,” she said. “If you are under an order of protection then something has happened where a victim has been placed in danger.”
West said his client plans to fight the original state level conviction that lead to the revocation of his gun possession rights.
The Obama administration had argued that the lower courts' reading of the law would render it unenforceable in many states.
*The Associated Press contributed to this report.