Supreme Court to Hear Arguments in Case That Could Re-Arm Thousands of Convicted Domestic Violence Abusers

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Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence
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Supreme Court to Hear Arguments in Case That Could Re-Arm Thousands of Convicted Domestic Violence Abusers

WASHINGTON - The U.S.Supreme Court will hear arguments today at 11 a.m. in United States v. Hayes, a case that will determine whether thousands of convicted domestic violence abusers will be allowed to possess guns.

The Court will interpret the federal Lautenberg Amendment, which bans gun possession by convicted domestic violence abusers. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and law enforcement groups filed a brief in June urging the Court to reverse an appeals court ruling that, if allowed to stand, could re-arm convicted abusers in a majority of states.

The Lautenberg Amendment, enacted in 1996, prohibits abusers convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from possessing firearms. In April 2007, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a wife beater's conviction for illegal gun possession by narrowly interpreting the Lautenberg Amendment as only barring gun possession by abusers convicted of laws specifically barring domestic violence, rather than all persons convicted of domestic violence under general battery laws. Most states do not have laws specifically barring violence against spouses or family members, but instead charge abusers under general battery laws.

If the Supreme Court affirms the 4th Circuit ruling, the names of thousands of dangerous, convicted abusers could be purged from the Brady background check system, enabling them to possess firearms.

"The Supreme Court should follow the will of Congress and protect domestic violence victims and law enforcement officers who risk their lives stopping abusers by affirming that convicted domestic violence abusers cannot have guns," said Brady Center President Paul Helmke. "We should not make it easier for dangerous abusers to get firearms."

The brief submitted by the Brady Center and law enforcement highlights the great danger that armed abusers pose to family members of these abusers as well as law enforcement officers summoned to address such violence. On average, more than three people are killed by intimate partners every day in this country. Intimate partner homicides account for up to one-half of all homicides of females. Every year between 1,000 and 1,600 women die at the hands of their male partners, and 14 percent of all police officer deaths occur during a response to domestic violence calls.

The groups that joined the Brady Center brief are the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Major Cities Chiefs, National Sheriffs' Association, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association, Police Executive Research Forum, National Black Police Association, National Latino Peace Officers Association, Legal Community Against Violence, and School Safety Advocacy Council.

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The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence is a national non-profit organization working to reduce the tragic toll of gun violence in America, through education, research, and legal advocacy. The programs of the Brady Center complement the legislative and grassroots mobilization of its sister organization, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence with its dedicated network of Million Mom March Chapters.

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