Advocates for domestic violence victims applaud a federal appeals court ruling which could restrict access to guns for domestic violence offenders. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the constitutionality of a federal law prohibiting people with domestic violence convictions from owning firearms. Opponents argued U.S. Supreme Court decisions on local gun laws in Chicago and Washington D.C. rendered such restrictions unconstitutional, but Tony Gibart with the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence said that’s not the case. “What the 7th Circuit said is that the Supreme Court indicated that laws that restrict . . . felons from possessing guns are presumptively constitutional,” said Gibart. “The 7th Circuit abided by that Supreme Court language and upheld the gun restriction.”
Judge Dianne Sykes wrote a dissent in the case – but the other fifteen judges opposed her. “We’re very glad that they did that, because the opinion of Judge Sykes would have made the enforcement more difficult,” said Gibart. The case originated in Rock County, where Steven Skoin had appealed a prison sentence for violating the terms of his probation on a domestic violence conviction, because he had a hunting rifle. An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court may be likely. “Mr. Skoin is a repeat batterer, someone who – although he was clearly told that he was not allowed to have a gun – had a gun only a year into his probation for a domestic violence offense,” Gibart noted. “So I don’t think the Supreme Court would look favorably upon an appeal.”
Skoien was convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence in 2006 and sentenced to probation. Probation agents later learned Skoien had gotten a gun deer license and found a shotgun in his pickup. Skoien entered a conditional guilty plea, was sentenced to two years in prison and appealed. The full sixteen judge 7th Circuit reversed a decision made by a three judge panel last November.