Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Guns, Abortion - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Guns, Abortion

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The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in a gun case born out of Tennessee, which will determine if a federal law, barring anyone convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence crime from possessing a firearm, should stand in place.

The federal law brought to issue in the case of United States v. Castleman dates back to 1996 and prevents anyone convicted of domestic abuse from owning a firearm.

The question brought up by James Alvin Castleman's lawyers was if congress intended for this law to apply to people charged with domestic abuse who did not necessarily commit a violent act.

"I think they're very black and white, the rights of abusers-period," said Nancy de Pastino, Regional Manager of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

"Talking about domestic violence and if it was a very strong willed act, doesn't make any difference. It was a domestic violence situation and those people shouldn't have access to guns," de Pastino said.

But for gun advocates, the court case takes on a different meaning: federal versus state authority when it comes to the second amendment.

"It's answering some gray areas left open by the Supreme Court in the Heller decision and in their McDonald v Chicago decisions," said President of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, Gary Marbut.

"In those cases, they held that the right to bear arms is a fundamental right and that it may not lightly be intruded on by government regulation. But there is still a lot of gray area to what that right means and this case is an opportunity to flush out that area," Marbut said.

State laws differ when it comes to the definition of domestic violence.

In 2009, James Castleman of Tennessee was charged with possessing firearms even though he had a misdemeanor domestic assault charge on his record.

A Tennessee district judge threw out the firearms charge because the state domestic abuse law he pleaded guilty to includes very minimal amounts of force.

Montana's partner-family member assault law is spelled out to include one of three acts of abuse:

  • purposely or knowingly causing bodily injury to a partner or family member.
  • negligently causing bodily injury with a weapon to a partner or family member.
  • purposely or knowingly causing reasonable apprehension of bodily injury to a partner or family member.

This supreme court case focuses on domestic crimes not considered strong and violent force.

"There are people out there who are reasonable members of the community who are not violent people who probably shouldn't have their constitutional rights stripped away willy-nilly by government and that's what this case is about," Marbut said.

Groups such as Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America have already filed amicus briefs to the court trying to impress upon justices the need to protect domestic abuse victims.

"I think we really need to step back from the political and think about who is going to be affected by this, who are going to be the victims and can we protect them?" de Pastino said.

The question of gun rights wasn't the only controversial case the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for Wednesday.

The case McCullen v. Coakley examines whether a law in Massachusetts restricting anti-abortion protestors from coming within 35 feet of an abortion clinic should stay in place.

The "No-Approach Zone" law does not apply to clinic employees.

The plaintiff, Eleanor McCullen, says this is a restriction of free speech and does not allow her to get close enough to people entering the clinic to effectively make her point.

Defendants say the law is effective in cutting down violence towards clinics, patients and doctors.

It is not yet known when the supreme court justices are expected to rule on either case.

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