For Release: Tuesday, October 16, 2001
NRA-Endorsed Suit Would Have Allowed Domestic Abusers To Keep Their Guns
WASHINGTON, DC – The Violence Policy Center (VPC) today applauded the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in United States v. Emerson. In reversing a lower district court ruling, the judges rejected the argument that the Second Amendment guarantees domestic abusers an individual right to keep and bear arms and that the plaintiff, Timothy Joe Emerson, was denied due process when arrested for possessing firearms under 1994’s federal Protective Order Gun Ban. The VPC is a national non-profit organization working to stop gun death and injury in America.
Mathew Nosanchuk, VPC litigation director and legislative counsel states, “Today the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the sweeping arguments of the gun lobby that the Second Amendment guarantees domestic abusers an individual right to possess a gun. Final score: public safety, one; gun lobby and domestic abusers, zero.”
Timothy Joe Emerson, a Texas resident, had been charged with violating 18 U.S.C. – 922(g)(8), which prohibits possession of a firearm by persons under a domestic violence restraining order. Emerson’s wife obtained such an order from a judge in 1998, after Emerson had acknowledged his mental instability. Two months later Emerson’s wife and daughter went to his office, where Emerson pulled his Beretta pistol from his desk drawer during an argument. Emerson was subsequently indicted for illegally possessing two 9mm pistols, a semi-auto SKS assault rifle with bayonet, a semi-auto M-14 assault rifle, and an M1 carbine and tried in District Court. Emerson contended that his case should be dismissed on the grounds that the federal ban on gun possession by those under a protective order for domestic violence violated the Second Amendment. The district judge sided with Emerson and dismissed the charges.
Justice Department prosecutors then appealed the trial court’s decision, stating that it directly conflicted with long-established legal precedent regarding the Second Amendment laid down by the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Miller [307 U.S. 174 (1939)] as well as the language of the Second Amendment itself, which speaks in terms of a limited right to keep and bear arms in connection with service in a state militia.