Since the Supreme Court’s decision to incorporate the Second Amendment in McDonald v. Chicago last month, there has been a legitimate fear that the decision will endanger sensible gun regulations – in particular laws forbidding those convicted of domestic violence from owning guns. But yesterday the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in United States v. Skoien that incorporation of the Second Amendment does not mean that regulations that keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers are unconstitutional.
As the first test of sensible gun regulations after McDonald, Skoien is a significant victory for gun-control activists and women. As I said before, women suffer disproportionately from the prevalence of guns -- particularly hand guns, which are the main weapon used by intimate partners to terrorize and murder women. Writing for the court, conservative Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook tore apart the defense, which argued that a complete ban on abusers owning guns was too broad. Easterbrook cited the recidivism rates of domestic abusers and the unique danger posed by guns in abusive relationships to argue for the government’s authority to regulate gun ownership in this particular instance.
Still, Skoien shouldn’t be seen as a definitive cap on the potential repercussions of McDonald. First, as many have noted, McDonald’s impact on gun regulation will become clearer after years of litigation. Second, despite the court’s strong decision, it declined to establish a standard of review for Second Amendment cases in light of McDonald. For the moment, Skoien may put a damper on the triumph talk coming from gun-rights activists, but it certainly does not mean that they will not continue to push cases like this. As one of the plaintiff's attorneys in the Skoien case told me earlier last week, “McDonald makes clear that the Second Amendment should be respected like all the others; that’s hard to square with Skoien.”
-- Pema Levy