Gun Ban for Domestic Abusers Draws U.S. High Court Review

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider the reach of the federal gun ban for people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence, agreeing to review a ruling the Obama administration says would nullify the prohibition in much of the country.

The justices will hear the administration’s appeal in the case of James Alvin Castleman, who was convicted under Tennessee law of assaulting the mother of his child. A federal appeals court said that conviction couldn’t serve as the basis for a later prosecution of Castleman for illegal gun possession.

At issue is a 1996 federal law that bars gun possession by people convicted of domestic violence, a crime the measure defines as involving “the use or attempted use of physical force.”

In Castleman’s case, a Cincinnati-based federal appeals court said Tennessee’s domestic-violence law doesn’t meet that definition because “violent” force isn’t required for a conviction.

“Castleman may have been convicted for causing a minor injury such as a paper cut or a stubbed toe,” the appeals court said.

In its appeal, the administration said many states have domestic-violence laws that are similar to Tennessee’s. Under the appeals court’s reasoning, the 1996 law “would be rendered largely inoperative,” the administration said.

The case is United States v. Castleman, 12-1371.

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