Survivor urges Supreme Court to protect domestic violence gun law


Barbara Pettis still vividly remembers the phone call she received on the night of August 24. From the other end of the line, a frantic voice told her that Jaylyn Sarah Hasty, her great-niece from South Carolina, had been murdered.

“Her ex-boyfriend shot her five times and was chasing her. He was so intent on killing her that he left his car running,” Pettis said. “He jumped out of his car, assaulted her, dragged her into her apartment and shot her five times.”

The Richland County Police Department arrested Kenardo Betts, 31, in connection with the shooting. Deputies described the shooting as a case of domestic violence.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. 1 in 4 women In the United States, they are exposed to severe physical violence by an intimate partner. This includes Betis.

“I had a broken nose, I had a concussion, my eyes were black, my face was swollen, my jaw was swollen,” Pettis said. “I choked until I lost consciousness. There was a weapon. I did not doubt for a moment that he would use it. During the last incident, he choked me. I saw the evil in his eyes, my face, and I heard the evil in the tone of his voice. He said he was going to kill me.

Fearing for her life, Pettis took out a restraining order against her attacker, leading to a 1994 law prohibiting anyone with a domestic violence restraining order from possessing a gun. She wishes her grandniece had done the same.

But that law, which prevented tens of thousands from purchasing firearms from people subject to domestic violence restraining orders, now hangs in the balance of the Supreme Court. Tuesday, The judges heard the arguments in United States v. Rahimi.

The case out of Texas revolves around Zaki Rahimi, who is currently serving a 6-year prison sentence. Rahimi was subject to a domestic violence restraining order when he was suspected of carrying out a series of shootings and threatening a woman with a gun. During the investigation, police found firearms in his apartment, a violation of a 1994 federal law.

Rahimi was indicted by a federal grand jury, who pleaded guilty. He was able to appeal his case after the country’s highest court set a new legal standard for nationwide gun regulations in 2022.

“The question before the court is whether or not they will uphold this federal law that prevents those subjected to domestic violence from possessing guns in light of their new test,” CBS News legal contributor Jessica Levinson said. “[The test] He says restrictions will only be adhered to if they are consistent with the history and traditions of the Second Amendment when it was ratified in the late 18th century.

As Levinson points out, the Supreme Court’s ruling could affect other gun laws that make their way through the nation’s lower courts.

“If the court rules in Rahimi’s favor in this case, it actually means that any similar laws that address restrictions on those who have been convicted of, for example, domestic violence crimes will all fall away,” Levinson said. “And I think those who support these laws would say they would make people much less safe.”

According to a study published in American Journal of Public HealthWomen are five times more likely to die from domestic violence when the abuser has access to a firearm.

In the case of Jaylen Hasty, Pettis says that’s exactly what happened.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t give you the necessary tools,” she said, thinking of her niece. “I miss you and love you so much.”

Bettis is turning her pain into purpose by working at a women’s shelter in Dallas for survivors of domestic violence. Every week she hosts a group meeting for fellow survivors, an open forum for women at the shelter to share their stories. She believes Supreme Court justices should hear from them before deciding the fate of women like her.

“People sit there and make decisions without having an intelligent perspective on what it does,” Pettis says. “These people who are making the laws, they weren’t there. I feel like they need to come to places like this. I feel like they need to sit down and talk to women like me who have been there and survived it.”

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