Content Warning: This article contains references to domestic violence.
The Second Amendment, which codifies Americans’ right to bear arms, will not loosen its grasp on American politics any time soon. On Nov. 7, the Supreme Court of the United States finished hearing arguments in the United States v. Rahimi case, which considers whether the Second Amendment should extend to domestic abusers. The plaintiff, Zackey Rahimi, committed a series of shootings after being placed under a domestic violence protective order.
As residents of Georgia — one of the states with the weakest gun legislation in the country — it is our responsibility to advocate for reform. The current debates surrounding gun control are proof that Emory University students must not give up on the fight for gun control, as Georgia is tied with Arkansas, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming for having the second-lowest number of gun safety laws in place. Georgia has expansive protections for gun owners, with laws allowing individuals to respond with “deadly force” to perceived threats, openly carry firearms without any license and purchase guns from unlicensed dealers without background checks. These laws directly enable the possibility of armed, hostile and reckless behavior.
United States v. Rahimi reveals the chokehold that gun ownership has on the way both justices and the public interpret the U.S. Constitution. In the past 50 years, many conservative organizations, including the National Rifle Association, have fought to define the Second Amendment as a broad protection for an individual’s right to keep and bear arms. They have dismissed the real issues of mass shootings and domestic abuse in favor of their personal political beliefs, claiming that these scenarios are too extreme to be considered in gun legislation conversations. This excuse can no longer be legitimized as there is a real possibility that domestic abusers’ gun rights will be expanded.
It is clear that the current conservative justices do not care to protect Americans from gun violence. Though the Supreme Court may side with the prosecution and against Rahimi, this decision will not be the win that gun control advocates want. When it comes to guns, conservative justices employ a broken, ambiguous logic that not only strikes down modest firearm regulations but further endangers survivors of domestic abuse.
The United States experiences more mass shootings than any other developed nation. Since 2006, at least 58% of mass shootings survivors were family members or close acquaintances of the shooter, which demonstrates the profound danger that guns pose to households and relationship dynamics like those in the Rahimi case. Rahimi had initially assaulted his then-girlfriend in a Texas parking lot and quickly turned to shooting his gun when he noticed her trying to escape. This case is further proof that domestic disputes can quickly escalate from arguments to violence. When an average of 70 women are shot and killed in cases of domestic abuse per month, it is vital that guns are taken away from abusers.
The tragic reality of domestic abuse turned deadly puts a spotlight on Rahimi and challenges the lengths gun advocates will go to protect their interpretation of the Second Amendment. Right-wing politicians are more concerned with fiercely protecting gun ownership than focusing on preventing the 48,830 deaths that occurred because of guns in 2021. By supporting Rahimi’s right to own a firearm in this case, conservatives will tacitly perpetuate further gun violence.
Guns have become a ubiquitous and never-ending subject of political discourse, but that does not diminish the urgency of reform. Especially in cases of domestic abuse in which it seems so clear to protect survivors, the Supreme Court has made clear by their wavering decisions on gun control that Americans will have to advocate for themselves.
Georgia law does not prohibit individuals with domestic violence charges or restraining orders from possessing firearms. It should be common sense that to minimize instances of domestic violence, Georgia also needs to implement laws against flagrant gun abuses. Even if the Supreme Court does ultimately side with Rahimi, Emory students can still fight on behalf of domestic abuse survivors in Georgia through locally active organizations like Everytown and the Georgia Youth Justice Coalition. Calling for strong gun regulation is not a partisan, ideological battle. It is a call for help.
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse or domestic violence, you can reach Emory’s Counseling and Psychological Services at (404) 727-7450 or https://counseling.emory.edu/ and intimate partner violence resources at https://womenscenter.emory.edu/resources/violence.html. You can call the Emory Police Department at (404) 727-6111. You can reach Georgia’s domestic violence statewide hotline 24/7 at (800) 334-2836.