(CN) – The Supreme Court on Tuesday voted 7-2 to uphold a federal law barring people convicted of domestic-violence crimes from owning guns.
The justices upheld the conviction of Randy Edward Hayes, who was arrested for possessing three firearms after having been convicted in 1994 of battery against his ex-wife. Hayes was charged with violating the Gun Control Act of 1968.
He moved to dismiss the indictment, claiming his 1994 offense should not have triggered the possession ban. He cited West Virginia’s generic battery law, which does not require any domestic relationship between the aggressor and victim.
Hayes argued that his conviction was for battery, not the domestic battery needed to trigger the Gun Control Act.
When the district court declined to dismiss his indictment, Hayes entered a conditional guilty plea and appealed. The 4th Circuit ruled in his favor, but the high court reversed.
Writing for the majority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that a domestic relationship must be established beyond a reasonable doubt, but it “need not be a defining element of the predicate offense.”
In a dissent joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John Roberts questioned that conclusion after dissecting the Act’s language.
“The term at issue is ‘misdemeanor crime of domestic violence,'” Roberts wrote. “That is a defined term – so the definition certainly must be parsed – but it would be at least surprising to find that from that parsing that a ‘misdemeanor crime of domestic violence’ need not by its terms have anything to do with domestic violence.”