Local and statewide domestic violence agencies are weighing in after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-1 on June 21 to uphold a federal law prohibiting those subject to domestic violence restraining orders from possessing firearms.

Officials with the Texas Council on Family Violence thanked the court’s decision to prioritize the life of domestic violence survivors.

“We are encouraged by this 8-1 decision while recognizing that enforcement of currently existing laws in Texas is still not sufficient in saving lives,” said Molly Voyles, TCFV director of public policy, in a news release. “Alongside survivors, those who have lost a loved one to intimate partner homicide and our member agencies, we will continue our work to ensure that laws designed to create safety for survivors of family violence are implemented in our state.”

Data from the TCFV found:

  • The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the rise of homicide by as much as 500%.
  • Of the 216 Texans who died due to domestic violence in 2022, 70% were killed by a person with a firearm.

Similar statistics were found in intimate partner homicides in Harris County, according to a February 2023 study by the University of Houston’s Institute for Research on Women, Gender & Sexuality. Intimate partner homicides tripled in Harris County between 2019 and 2022.

Digging deeper

According to an October report from the Houston Area Women’s Center, about 73% of intimate partner violence homicides in the Houston area between 2019-22 involved guns.

HAWC also reported between 2015-19, the FBI saw nearly 10% of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty were responding to domestic disturbances or domestic violence.

The impact

The June decision on U.S. v. Rahimi supercedes a February 2023 U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decision, ruling the federal government does not violate a person’s Second Amendment right to bear arms when a person is the subject of a domestic violence protective order.

HAWC President and CEO Emilee Whitehurst started a petition to overturn the U.S. 5th Circuit Court’s decision when the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the case in November.

“It is outrageous survivors in Texas lost this critical lifesaving strategy for any period of time, especially knowing guns are the leading cause of domestic violence homicides. We must look at the way society is supporting survivors and ensuring those in abusive situations have access to resources and protective measures that could save their lives,” Whitehurst said in a statement.

Put in perspective

The ruling was also met with approval from officials with national domestic violence prevention organizations, stating the ruling will help prevent a significant rise in fatalities.

The Battered Women’s Justice Project is a nonprofit that works with jurisdictions across the country to improve access to support and safety practices. Jennifer Becker is the BWJP director of the national center on gun violence in relationships. She said in a news release the ruling sends a powerful message.

“[The] ruling affirms that the lives and safety of survivors are paramount, and that their protection takes precedence over the abuser’s ability to access firearms,” Becker said. “We urge lawmakers to continue strengthening protections for domestic violence survivors.”

Quote of note

Sexual assault survivor Marlecia Bellamy spoke at a January HAWC news conference detailing her experience, she said, feeling belittled while navigating the criminal justice system for her case.

"Victims are frequently told to move on with your life and to stand still emotionally at the same time while waiting years to be heard by the criminal justice system," Bellamy said.