CINCINNATI — A divided federal appeals court panel on Thursday upheld the U.S. ban on guns for people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence, even decades after the offense.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges voted 2-1 to affirm a lower court’s dismissal of the challenge to by an Ohio man who pleaded no contest in 1997 to a domestic violence charge for “knowingly causing or attempting to cause harm” to his then-wife.
The man, Terry Stimmel, was blocked in 2002 from buying a gun at a Walmart store after a background check showed his domestic violence record. He said he wanted the gun to “defend his home and family.”
Stimmel appealed unsuccessfully to the FBI and then filed a challenge to the U.S. statute on domestic violence and guns, saying it unconstitutionally undercuts his Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms and his right to equal protection under the law. He has had no other conviction but contends he has little chance of getting a pardon or otherwise having his misdemeanor conviction set aside.
However, Judge Richard Allen Griffin, joined by Judge Helene White, said federal courts have consistently upheld the gun ban for misdemeanor domestic violence convicts, who were included in a 1996 law intended to disarm domestic abusers who weren’t prosecuted for felonies but posed continued risks of violence to their families.
“The record contains sufficient evidence to reasonably conclude that disarming domestic violence (misdemeanor convicts) is substantially related to the government’s compelling interest of preventing gun violence, and particularly, domestic gun violence,” Griffin wrote.
Judge Danny Boggs dissented, saying the government offered, “at best, minimal evidence” that someone with no other domestic violence history presents a heightened risk decades later.
“It has yet to justify what is, effectively, a lifetime ban on a fundamental constitutional right,” Boggs wrote.
Stimmel’s attorney, Derek DeBrosse, of Columbus, said they were encouraged by the dissenting opinion and “are considering the options.” Stimmel can ask for a review by the full 6th circuit or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
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