Skull of Saint Valentine in the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome | Credit: seriykotik1970 / Wikimedia Commons

BANG BANG:  Nothing says “I love you” these days quite so movingly as a bullet through the heart. Only old-fashioned Luddites like Cupid still use a bow and arrow to get their point across.

Getting this year’s Valentine’s Day off with a real bang was Cory T. Wilson, a judge on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Texas. Wilson ruled that federal laws barring individuals with a history of domestic violence from purchasing and possessing firearms were not constitutional. Even wife-beaters, he concluded, have the right to bear arms in the interest of maintaining “a well-regulated militia.”

The facts of the case are striking. On February 5, 2020, a Texas State Court had issued a restraining order against one Zackey Rahimi after his ex-girlfriend complained he’d assaulted her and had been stalking, lurking, and otherwise intimidating her and the former couple’s child. As part of this court order, Rahimi was banned outright from owning or possessing a firearm.

Rahimi, it turns out, paid that court order a whole lot of never no mind. Between December 2020 and January 2021, Rahimi fired multiple gunshots into the residence of a customer to whom he’d just sold narcotics. The next day, Rahimi was involved in a car accident. He responded by getting out of the car, firing at the other driver, fleeing, coming back in another car, and firing some more. Later that month, the intemperate Rahimi popped off a few rounds “at a constable’s car.” And lastly, when a friend’s credit card had been declined at the Whataburger restaurant, he fired multiple shots in the air.

When cops finally tracked Rahimi down for the shootings, they found he owned a rifle and a pistol despite the court order expressly prohibiting him from doing so. Accordingly, a federal grand jury filed criminal charges against Rahimi for illegally possessing the firearms. 

Spoiler alert: Judge Wilson and the other two judges sitting on his panel ruled that the Second Amendment allows even people with records like Rahimi’s untrammeled Second Amendment rights. Accordingly, charges against Rahimi were dropped.

More astonishing than the verdict itself was Wilson and the panel’s legal reasoning. They relied on a ruling written last summer by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas — known as the Bruen decision — dramatically limiting the government authority on restricting who gets concealed-weapons permits. In a nutshell, Justice Thomas ruled that if there was nothing on the books at the time the constitution was written that could be seen as analogous to any contemporary restrictions on gun access, those contemporary restrictions were out the window. 

About 70 women a month are killed by intimate partners with firearms. One million American women still walking the earth have been shot, fired at, or threatened with a gun; the immediate consequences of this approach beggars imagination. 

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In the spirit of toxic love, it’s worth noting that both of the two Saint Valentines had their heads chopped off by respective Roman emperors. The 3rd-century Valentine was decapitated because he was marrying soldiers against the express wishes of the Emperor Claudius. The more recent Valentine had his head chopped off for restoring sight to a young woman who’d been stricken blind. Such an ostentatious display of miracles, it was feared, would undermine Roman gods while giving the new Christian missionaries a leg up.  

The Fifth Circuit ruling — which for the time being applies only in Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana — is right up there with Claudius. It takes the Bruen decision — bad enough on its own — into unimaginable waters. Thomas found that the benefits of the Second Amendment could not be denied to “responsible and law-abiding citizens.” Rahimi, by his conduct, is clearly not either of those, and Judge Wilson readily acknowledged that. But to strip Rahimi of his broadly construed Second Amendment rights, Wilson argued, constituted the first step of a very slippery slope.

“Could speeders be stripped of their right to keep and bear arms?” he asked. “Political non-conformists? People who do not recycle or drive an electric vehicle? One easily gets the point.”

Yes, Judge Wilson has totally lost touch with reality. With 40 mass shootings in the first three weeks of the new year and no indication the pace is slacking, we can all get used to not knowing for whom the flags are flying half-mast. VI Lenin used to chortle that members of the capitalist class could be counted on to sell the very rope with which they would eventually be hanged. I’d say we’ve taken it one step further. 

As long as the Supreme Court insists that access to guns will be determined by historians, we all might need to invest in bulletproof vests. The historical record is inherently subjective. For example, Judge Wilson discovered that in three of the 13 original colonies, rules existed that limited the right to bear arms for people deemed a potential threat. But just three, he concluded, was not enough. The historical record lies always in the eye of the beholder.

There’s reason to think the Rahimi ruling will be overruled, but Bruen could be used to invalidate the Red-Flag emergency gun restraining order law that Congressmember Salud Cabajal got successfully inserted into last year’s federal gun-control package. This allows authorities to seize weapons held by people a court has ruled are potentially unstable. In the past three years, 102 guns have been judicially removed from 44 people determined to be volatile within Santa Barbara city limits. The federal law sets aside $750 million to cover the costs of state and local implementation. To date, California — which already has such a law — has received $29 million.

In the meantime, does that Glock make your ass look fat?

Most definitely, it does.


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