The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals isn’t one of the country’s more progressive courts, but on Thursday it came through, upholding a critical gun safety law.
In a 2-1 decision, judges on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Lautenberg Amendment, a 1996 law that added lower-level domestic violence convictions to the list of prohibitors for gun sales.
The case, Stimmel v. Sessions, was brought by an Ohio man who was denied a gun purchase in 2002 after a background check showed he had pleaded no contest to domestic assault. According to an arrest report filed in the 1997 case, Terry Lee Stimmel injured his then-wife’s head during an altercation in which he threw her against a wall, shoved her to the ground, and tried to forcibly remove her wedding rings. Stimmel served one day of a 180-day jail sentence, and has never been convicted of another crime, a record of good behavior he claimed should result in the restoration of his gun rights.
The Sixth Circuit disagreed. As Judge Richard Griffin wrote in his opinion, misdemeanor domestic violence isn’t like other lesser crimes. It is particularly dangerous, especially because abusers tend to be recidivists. “Essential here is that the victim is more likely to be killed when a gun is present,” he noted.
What’s more, all three judges on the appeals court panel were appointed by Republican presidents. Senior Judge Danny Julian Boggs is a Reagan appointee; Judge Richard Allen Griffin and Judge Helene N. White came to us via President George W. Bush. The latter two made up the two-judge majority that upheld the gun safety amendment, consistent with other circuits’ opinions.
[W]e join the growing consensus of our sister circuits that have unanimously upheld the constitutionality of the domestic violence misdemeanant restriction to firearms possession.