Jan 4, 2018

Stimmel v. Sessions, et al., No. 15-4196 (GRIFFIN, White, Boggs).

Stimmel v. Sessions, et al., No. 15-4196 (GRIFFIN, White, Boggs).

The plaintiff challenged a federal firearm statute—18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9)—that prevents people who have been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from possessing firearms, arguing that the statute unconstitutionally burdens the plaintiff’s Second Amendment rights. The district court dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint, and he appealed.

The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal, with the majority assuming, without deciding, that a domestic violence misdemeanant has Second Amendment rights to some degree, and then evaluating the statute under intermediate scrutiny. The Court held that the statute passed intermediate scrutiny because disarming domestic violence misdemeanants is substantially related to the compelling interest of preventing gun violence, especially domestic gun violence. The Court noted that its holding was consistent with decisions from the First, Fourth, Seventh, Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Circuits. The Court reasoned that the studies and other data the Government presented established that those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence are sufficiently likely to reoffend, and victims of domestic violence are more likely to be killed when a gun is present.

The Court also affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s equal protection claim because the plaintiff did not show how he—as a domestic violence misdemeanant—was similarly situated to those who have been “adjudicated as a mental defective” under § 922(g)(4), such that they had avenues for administrative relief from firearms restrictions.

Judge Boggs dissented, finding that the Government did not present sufficient evidence to show that § 922(g)(9)—which acts as a lifetime ban on firearm possession—appropriately fits its stated objective, because the Government did not show that a non-recidivist domestic violence misdemeanant presents a heightened risk of reoffending decades after his or her conviction. Judge Boggs stated that the majority had failed to consider that the question of “fit,” in applying intermediate scrutiny, has a temporal component.