The U.S. Supreme Court decided on Tuesday to consider the scope of a federal law that bans people who have been convicted of domestic violence from owning a gun.

In 2001, James Castleman pled guilty in Tennessee state court to misdemeanor domestic assault against the mother of his child and was sentenced to supervised probation for 11 months and 29 days. Then, in 2008, law enforcement agents found that Castleman and his wife were purchasing firearms from gun dealers and selling them on the black market. Castleman was subsequently charged in federal court with possession of a firearm by a person convicted of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” and with making false statements to a federally licensed firearm dealer.

Castleman moved to dismiss the federal charges, arguing that his domestic assault conviction was not a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” as defined in the federal law because his state court conviction did not establish that Castleman had used physical force against the victim. A lower court and court of appeals agreed and threw out the indictment. The United States petitioned the Supreme Court for review.

The Supreme Court will now decide when the federal law banning gun ownership will apply to individuals convicted of domestic violence crimes. The Obama administration argues that if the Court upholds the lower court decisions, it will invalidate the federal domestic violence gun prohibition. The administration also argues that any assault that results in bodily injury includes some degree of physical force.

Oral arguments in United States v. Castleman have not yet been scheduled.

Media Resources: The Supreme Court of the United States

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