Local

Supreme Court case could put guns into hands of violent abusers

Domestic abuse survivors are waiting for a critical ruling that could jeopardize their safety even more.

In just a few weeks, the Supreme Court will rule on a case that will affect the safety of many women — and some men — across the country. At issue is whether a domestic abuser can have their guns taken away when someone has taken a restraining order out against them.

Women who are in domestic violence situations often have no place to run, and the case could blunt one of the most useful tools that keeps them safe.

Survivor story

Alceen Ford-Meggett told Channel 9′s Evan Donovan she never saw signs of abuse in one of her previous relationships, but that changed quickly.

“He refused to take me to the hospital, so I drove myself,” she said. “And that’s when I found out that I had miscarried, not knowing that I was even pregnant.”

When she woke up in a pool of blood that morning, Ford-Meggett said a lightbulb went off telling her to leave her partner. She didn’t, because things got better for about six months.

“The night that I left, like I said, he came home — I was asleep,” she said. “He woke me up, sitting in a chair next to the bed and pulled out his .45 and spun the barrel, pulled the trigger.”

“How many times did that happen?” Donovan asked.

“Evan, I don’t know. I was just praying that the bullet didn’t come out,” Ford-Meggett said.

They split and she later had a daughter.

One night years later, her next boyfriend came home angry.

“And he — oh goodness gracious — He beat me to the point where I looked like the elephant man when he finished, alright? He broke the phone, beating me with the phone,” Ford-Meggett said.

She got a restraining order and never saw that man again.

The case

CDC statistics show Ford-Meggett’s story is all too familiar. About 1 in 4 women “have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner,” the agency says.

Judges can order the subject of a restraining order to give up their guns, and polling shows 80% of Americans — including gun owners — support that step.

But a small number of people are fighting that law, and one of those cases has now reached the Supreme Court.

U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar spoke during oral arguments for United States v. Zackey Rahimi.

“A woman who lives in a house with a domestic abuser is five times more likely to be murdered if he has access to a gun,” she said. “And it’s not just the harms in the home; it extends to the public and to police officers as well.”

When the ex-girlfriend of a Texas man took out a restraining order against him, a judge barred him from having guns.

Police said over the next two months, he was involved in five separate shootings and challenged the law that disarmed him. It’s no joking matter, but even the justices laughed at one exchange with his attorney.

“You don’t have any doubt that your client’s a dangerous person, do you?” Chief Justice John Roberts asked.

“Your honor, I would want to know what ‘dangerous person’ means,” his attorney replied. “At the moment --”

“Well, it means someone who’s shooting, you know, at people. That’s a good start,” Roberts said, laughing.

“That’s fair,” the attorney said.

‘A gun should not be in the house’

A Supreme Court ruling last year in a case known as “Bruen” now requires current gun laws to be part of the history and tradition of gun regulation in America. Exactly what that means isn’t clear, and thus has led courts across the U.S. to overturn all kinds of gun laws, including ones against the following:

  • People under 21
  • Nonviolent felons
  • Drug users
  • Ghost guns

People who advocate for domestic violence survivors, as Ford-Meggett now does, say those laws save lives.

“If you are abusing your mate and you have a gun, more than likely you’re going to use that gun,” she said.

“A gun should not be in the house.”

U.S. v. Rahimi was argued before the Supreme Court in November. We expect a decision from the justices sometime before the end of June.

In the meantime, if you or someone you know is in a domestic violence situation, there is help available.

For a list of resources in the Charlotte area, click here.

For statewide resources in North Carolina, click here. For South Carolina, click here.

You can also call the 24-hour Domestic Violence Crisis Hotline at 980-771-HOPE.

(WATCH BELOW: Loophole gives accused abusers a break at the expense of alleged domestic violence victims)

Evan Donovan

Evan Donovan, wsoctv.com

Evan is an anchor and reporter for Channel 9.