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Everytown for Gun Safety Files Brief Urging U.S. Supreme Court to Keep Guns Out of The Hands of Convicted Domestic Abusers

A Negative Ruling in Voisine v. United States Could Allow Convicted Domestic Violence Offenders to Possess Guns

WASHINGTON – Today, Everytown for Gun Safety filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court urging the Court to reject dangerous arguments that would gut the federal prohibition on gun possession by domestic abusers convicted of misdemeanor offenses, allowing them to legally own firearms. The brief, prepared for Everytown by Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, was filed in Voisine v. United States. The brief, available here, urges the Supreme Court not to arm domestic violence criminals by narrowing the number of domestic abuse misdemeanor convictions that prohibit gun ownership.

STATEMENT FROM J. ADAM SKAGGS, SENIOR COUNSEL FOR EVERYTOWN FOR GUN SAFETY:

“Access to a gun is what often turns domestic violence into domestic homicide. In fact, the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that a woman will be killed. It is imperative that the Supreme Court reject the dangerous arguments presented in Voisine v. United States, which would eviscerate federal gun laws and could allow dangerous convicted batterers to legally possess guns in more than two-thirds of the States.”

The Voisine case involves the federal law that prohibits gun possession by a person convicted of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence,” 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9). The petitioners in the case were convicted of misdemeanor domestic assaults and, after subsequently being arrested in possession of firearms, they were convicted of violating § 922(g)(9). On appeal, they argue that their convictions should not prohibit gun ownership. The Everytown amicus brief explains that if the Supreme Court adopts the petitioners’ position, people with misdemeanor domestic assault convictions in more than two-thirds of the States could legally possess guns. The brief urges the court to “decline Petitioners’ invitation to rewrite our federal gun laws – and severely undermine public safety.”

The Davis Polk legal team included Antonio J. Perez-Marques, David B. Toscano, Jillian Rennie Stillman, Antonio M. Haynes, Nick M. Axelrod, and Adrienne L. Adkins. They were joined on the brief by Everytown lawyers Adam Skaggs and Mark Anthony Frassetto.

Additional Information About Voisine v. United States:


  • A federal gun law known as the Lautenberg Amendment prohibits gun possession by any person convicted of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.” 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9).
  • In Voisine v. United States, two defendants were convicted of illegal gun possession under § 922(g)(9) because they were apprehended with firearms after previously being convicted of domestic violence assaults. On appeal, they argued that the assault law they were convicted of violating should not be considered a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” because it permitted a conviction for “intentionally, knowingly or recklessly” causing bodily injury or offensive physical contact. They argued that a crime that could be satisfied by “reckless” conduct should not be counted as a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.”
  • The Everytown brief urged the Supreme Court to reject the argument that “reckless” crimes should be excluded from § 922(g)(9). The brief demonstrated that the clear goal of the federal gun law is to prohibit anyone convicted of a domestic violence crime from possessing a gun. When Congress enacted § 922(g)(9) in 1996, Senator Frank Lautenberg, who sponsored the provision, described the policy as establishing “zero tolerance” for domestic violence. Excluding “recklessness” crimes from § 922(g)(9) would fly in the face of Congress’s stated purpose in passing the Lautenberg Amendment.
  • If the Supreme Court accepted the arguments made by the convicted abusers in Voisine, it would also pose a serious threat to public safety, because domestic abusers convicted of misdemeanor assault or battery offenses in more than two-thirds of the states could be able to legally possess guns.