On 3 May 2010, The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, joined by a coalition of national law enforcement and domestic violence groups, filed a “friend of the court” brief today in the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit urging the Court not to expand the scope of the Second Amendment to allow domestic violence abusers to possess firearms.

The full Court is considering this case after a three judge panel vacated the conviction of a domestic violence offender found in illegal possession of firearms, in violation of the 1996 federal “Lautenberg Amendment” to the Gun Control Act of 1968. The Lautenberg Amendment bars gun possession by those convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors.

The brief, filed in United States v. Skoien, argues that the Second Amendment does not prevent the federal government from taking firearms away from convicted perpetrators of domestic violence, and notes that the Supreme Court’s precedent-setting decision in District of Columbia v. Heller expressly limited the right to have guns in the home for self-defense to responsible, law-abiding citizens.

“The Second Amendment should not be read to give dangerous domestic violence abusers a right to guns,” said Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Center. “The Seventh Circuit should recognize the unique risks and responsibilities inherent in gun ownership and possession, and not extend Second Amendment rights to domestic violence abusers and other criminals.”

The defendant, Steven Skoien, has a history of domestic violence abuse, including a 2003 conviction for misdemeanor battery perpetrated against his then-wife, and a 2006 conviction for misdemeanor domestic battery on his then-fiancee. Federal law currently prohibits any person convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence from possessing a firearm. Skoien continued to possess firearms though, and in 2007 he was sentenced to two years in prison for illegal gun possession. Skoien appealed, claiming that he only possesses guns for hunting and that the Second Amendment gives him the right to have guns. Following an initial ruling in Skoien’s favor by a panel of three judges, the appeal will be heard before the Seventh Circuit en banc.

The law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr is representing, on a pro bono basis, the Brady Center and other groups filing the brief.

Joining the Brady Center’s brief are the National Black Police Association, the Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association, the National Latino Peace Officers Association, and the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

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As the nation's largest, non-partisan, grassroots organization leading the fight to prevent gun violence, the Brady Campaign, with its dedicated network of Million Mom March Chapters, works to enact and enforce sensible gun laws, regulations and public policies. The Brady Campaign is devoted to creating an America free from gun violence, where all Americans are safe at home, at school, at work, and in our communities.

For continuing insight and comment on the gun issue, read Paul Helmke's blog at www.bradycampaign.org/blog/

Visit the Brady Campaign website at www.bradycampaign.org