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Mayor Adams Leads Broad Coalition of Local Governments in Joining Legal Fight to Protect Domestic Violence Survivors

August 23, 2023

Amicus Brief Argues That Prohibiting Individuals Under Domestic Violence-Related Restraining Orders From Possessing Gun is Consistent With Second Amendment and Historical Tradition

Signals Strong Support for Public Safety and Keeping Guns Away From Dangerous Individuals

NEW YORK – New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Corporation Counsel Sylvia O. Hinds-Radix led a coalition of 15 cities and counties from across the nation in joining a legal fight to uphold a commonsense gun safety law and protect domestic abuse survivors, law enforcement, and others from gun violence. In an amicus brief filed in the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Rahimi, New York City and the other amici signaled their strong support for prohibiting individuals subject to domestic-violence protective orders from possessing firearms.

After the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit struck down the long-standing federal law preventing people with domestic-violence protective orders from having guns in February, the Biden-Harris administration asked the Supreme Court to reverse the ruling and restore the law. The city’s amicus brief argues that prohibiting people under domestic-violence protective restraining orders from possessing a gun is consistent with the Second Amendment and a deep historical tradition of preventing dangerous individuals from accessing firearms.

“Stopping dangerous people from owning dangerous weapons is a commonsense, constitutional way to prevent gun violence,” said Mayor Adams. “Getting rid of this essential law will do the exact opposite — exacerbating violence and endangering communities. In New York City, we are clear to survivors of domestic violence, victims of gun violence, and our law enforcement officers that their safety is our number one priority. That is why we are leading a coalition to file this amicus brief, restore an essential law, and continue the fight for a country free from gun violence.”

“Gun violence has plagued our cities and our nation,” said Corporation Counsel Hinds-Radix. “While we respect the constitutional rights of individuals to bear arms, we must be mindful of the risk of putting weapons into the hands of individuals who have shown themselves to be dangerous. This law plays a vital role in protecting our law enforcement, victims of domestic abuse, and all other citizens.”

“The combination of domestic abuse and firearms is deadly,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom. “Intimate partners already shoot and kill an average of 70 women every month in this country — and if we allow people subject to domestic violence restraining orders to have guns, that human toll will only grow, devastating even more families. We need the Supreme Court to protect survivors, their families, and law enforcement by keeping guns out of abusers’ hands.”

“Guns do not belong in the hands of domestic abusers,” said City Hall Chief Counsel Lisa Zornberg. “With this brief, we’re making clear that not only does this prohibition make policy sense — it’s fully consistent with the Constitution as well. I’m proud to stand with the mayor, our Corporation Counsel, and leaders from across the country in defense of survivors of domestic violence and this commonsense gun safety law.”

“Domestic incidents are oftentimes volatile situations that feature at the worst moments in people’s lives,” said New York City Police Department Commissioner Edward A. Caban. “Prohibiting domestic violence abusers from accessing firearms is sound, practical judgment that, quite frankly, saves lives.”

“Gun violence continues to plague our country, and domestic violence incidents involving firearms are among the most dangerous for all involved,” said Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice Director Deanna Logan. “Our city’s public safety plan is helping reduce crime citywide, and this law is a vital measure to help protect survivors of domestic- and gender-based violence. I applaud Mayor Adams' leadership and our administration’s unwavering commitment to safety for all.”

“New York City is paying close attention to the United States v. Rahimi case that when decided, could have an immediate — and potentially — deadly effect on survivors of domestic violence both in New York City and across the nation,” said New York City Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence Commissioner Cecile Noel. “Through the coordinated efforts of survivors, advocates, attorneys, activists, city officials, and more, New York City has protections included in our local laws that acknowledge the heightened dangers we know exist when a person who is subject to a domestic violence protective order has access to a gun. The existing federal and state laws that are threatened by this case must be upheld and faithfully implemented in order to protect survivors, their children, and all of our communities. No matter what the Supreme Court decides, New York City will continue to support survivors as they find pathways to safety, fund groundbreaking programming designed to change the behavior of abusive partners, and fight to maintain the city’s survivor safety net that has been painstakingly created over the past several decades. Now and always, New York City stands with survivors.”

As the city’s amicus brief explains, the United States has a long-standing tradition of preventing dangerous people from possessing firearms. But for far too long in American history, federal law did not properly recognize domestic abusers as dangerous people. Recent decades have brought more protections for survivors of domestic violence, reflecting the dangers in allowing domestic abusers access to firearms. Every month, an average of 70 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner, and access to a gun makes it five times more likely that an abusive partner will kill their female victim.

The loss of this domestic violence prohibitor would undermine efforts to prevent gun violence and protect survivors of domestic abuse. Domestic disturbance calls are among the most dangerous kinds of calls for police officers. F law enforcement officers — including New York City Detectives Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora — have been shot in the line of duty responding to domestic violence calls. Without this law, those situations could be not only more frequent but also even more deadly.

In July, Mayor Adams released “A Blueprint for Community Safety,” outlining a forward-thinking roadmap with upstream solutions to address gun violence throughout the five boroughs. The report builds upon all the work the Adams administration has undertaken over the last 18 months to reduce shootings by double digits and culminates months of engagement with communities most impacted by gun violence, including young people, whose feedback was critical in shaping the strategies and recommendations that will ensure the city continues to build on the public safety gains made since January 2022.

Joining New York’s brief are the cities of Baltimore, Maryland; Boston, Massachusetts; Chicago, Illinois; Indianapolis, Indiana; Los Angeles, California; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Portland, Oregon; Sacramento, California; and Syracuse, New York; the City and County of San Francisco, California; and the counties of Los Angeles, California; King, Washington; and Santa Clara, California.

“It’s common sense that dangerous abusers should not have the right to possess a gun,” said Nick Suplina, senior vice president for law and policy, Everytown for Gun Safety. “The Supreme Court must prioritize the lives and safety of survivors and our communities by overturning the Fifth Circuit’s extreme and deadly decision in United States v. Rahimi or it will be a death sentence for women and families across the country.”


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