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US gun controls strengthened for people with domestic violence convictions

Those convicted of battering a 'domestic relation' are now banned from buying firearms, even if their charge is a misdemeanor. The decision came amidst a heated debate about gun violence in the US.

The US Supreme Court upheld a ruling on Monday that strengthens controls on gun bans for those with domestic violence convictions.

In a 6-2 decision, the court effectively closed what Justice Elena Kagan described as a "dangerous loophole" that allowed some domestic violence perpetrators to purchase firearms.

The case was brought by two men from the state of Maine who had been convicted of misdemeanor "reckless" domestic abuse. They argued that a twenty year old law banning convicted abusers from buying guns should apply only to those with charges "intentional" or premeditated violence or those guilty of felony assault.

"The federal ban on firearms possession applies to any person with a prior misdemeanor conviction for the 'use . . . of physical force' against a domestic relation," wrote Kagan in the majority opinion.

Clarence Thomas breaks his silence

Justice Clarence Thomas, a staunch supporter of gun ownership rights, argued: "we treat no other constitutional right so cavalierly" as the Second Amendment. "This decision leaves the right to keep and bear arms up to the discretion of federal, state and local prosecutors," he wrote.

"The government could not identify any other fundamental constitutional right that a person could lose forever by a single conviction for an infraction punishable only by a fine," Thomas added.

The case was significant for Thomas, as he ended a decade of complete silence from the bench when he asked a government lawyer during oral arguments: "Can you give me another area where a misdemeanor violation suspends a constitutional right?"

Democrats push for gun control

Gun control has been once again thrust upon the national stage in the US, following a June 12 attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando, when 49 people were killed in the deadliest gun massacre in US history.

When an attempt to expand background checks for gun purchases was quashed by Republicans in the Senate, Democrats in the House of Representatives

staged an overnight sit-in

that didn't end even when Speaker Paul Ryan adjourned the chamber until after the July 4 holiday.

House Democrats have vowed to continue the fight when Congress resumes work on July 5.

es/jm (AP, Reuters)

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