The Supreme Court came to the defense of domestic abuse victims when it ruled Monday that people who commit reckless acts of domestic violence can have their Second Amendment rights to own guns taken away, USA Today reports. Both conservative and liberal justices supported the 6-2 decision, which was written by Justice Elena Kagan.
This decision upheld the sentences of two men from Maine who were formerly convicted of domestic abuse. They believed that those convictions should not have any influence over their constitutional rights to own guns. However, research has shown that domestic assault is much more likely to turn deadly if the perpetrator owns a gun, which is why lawmakers enacted the law in the first place.
One of the men, named Stephen Voisine, pleaded guilty to slapping his girlfriend drunkenly in 2004. Five years later, federal law enforcement found a gun in his possession after receiving an anonymous tip that he shot a bald eagle, NBC News reports. The other man, named William Armstrong, pleaded guilty to assaulting his wife in 2008, and was also found with guns in his possession two years later.
These two men contested against the ban applying to them. They arguing that state law allowed them to be convicted of domestic abuse because of their “recklessness” instead of considering their “intent.” Essentially, when they pushed and shoved their partners, they believed they were acting reckless—as in, knowing that they could cause harm but not thinking they actually would—rather than acting with an intent to harm. In their eyes, the federal law preventing those convicted of domestic violence from buying guns should not apply to reckless behavior.
Six of the eight justices disagreed with Voisine and Armstrong’s claims. Justice Clarence Thomas, one of the two who did not support the decision, argued that the result of this case encroached on Second Amendment rights.
Justice Thomas wrote in his dissent, “In construing the statute before us expansively so that causing a single minor reckless injury or offensive touching can lead someone to lose his right to bear arms forever, the court continues to relegate the Second Amendment to a second-class right.”
Thomas is a staunch supporter of Second Amendment rights, similar to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, whose seat on the bench has remained empty since his death in February. Thomas, who ordinarily remains quiet and allows the lawyers to present their cases, uncharacteristically asked nine questions during the oral arguments. USA Today speculated that Justice Thomas asked questions during oral arguments for the first time in years in honor of the late Justice Scalia.
Although the ruling is a definite win on the part of domestic abuse victims and advocates, the U.S. has many more important decisions on gun control to come—especially after the Orlando mass shooting this month.