Record deaths in Texas as Supreme Court decides whether some domestic violence perpetrators can have guns

Guns in the home increases chance of death by 500% for domestic violence victims, reports show

SAN ANTONIO – The numbers are in, and they’re not good.

In 2022, 216 Texans were killed by intimate partners -- 12 of whom were in Bexar County. The overall statistic is the second-worst number since the Texas Council on Family Violence (TCFV) began collecting data.

In the last decade, the number of homicides involving a gun has doubled.

“We know that the presence of a firearm is one of the most lethal indicators,” said Mikisha Hooper, community response manager for the Texas Council on Family Violence.

She said 70% of those victims were shot, and 35%-40% of those shooters were not legally supposed to have a gun, reports showed.

There are federal and state laws prohibiting gun ownership for people with domestic violence convictions. Texas is a state that extends that law to those with protective orders against them.

Advocates have consistently said the problem is enforcement.

“There’s not a lot of action following that to remove the guns and store them as long as that prohibition is in place,” Hooper said.

Bexar County is consistently at the top of the list when it comes to cities with a domestic violence crisis.

There have been some big strides made in response.

Two years ago, the Bexar County Commissioners Court approved funding for a compliance officer.

Civil judges can ask the officer to follow up with perpetrators who are not supposed to have guns. That could change for perpetrators with protective orders, pending a U.S. Supreme Court case happening now.

Zachey Rahimi was placed on a protective order after a situation with his girlfriend escalated, and he shot his gun at a bystander.

While under that protective order, he was supposed to surrender guns, but he did not.

Law enforcement said he later used one gun to threaten another woman, and months later, he was involved in five shootings in the span of several weeks in the winter of 2020.

While trying to get his case dismissed, Rahimi argued that the law was unconstitutional. He lost his court effort and was sentenced to six years.

Then, in February 2023, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Rahimi, ruling that the Second Amendment allows people under protective orders for committing domestic violence to keep their guns.

Supporters of gun rights have said that Rahimi, who has a history of violent behavior, is not the ideal person to be at the front of this Second Amendment case. However, they still say that people with civil protective orders have not been convicted of a crime, so they should not be stripped of their constitutional right to have guns.

Since his sentencing, Rahimi penned a letter from prison accepting responsibility for his actions, saying he no longer wants to have firearms.

TCFV and agencies across the nation joined a petition to have the case sent to the Supreme Court, and those hearings began Tuesday.

While the Supreme Court hears the case, the victim advocacy agencies have released statements begging the Supreme Court to side against Rahimi and overturn the former ruling.

“One of the keys in addressing domestic violence is accountability for abusive behavior,” Hooper said.

It is known that the most dangerous time for a domestic violence survivor is when he or she is leaving, and Hooper said that survivor depends on the protection of law enforcement and the courts. She said a protective order gives victims time to make a safety plan, but with a gun legally in the picture, that victim is 500% more likely to be killed.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic violence, call Family Violence Prevention Services at (210) 733-8810.

You can immediately ask for translation services either from a bilingual staff member or through MasterWord.

There is also a long list of resources on the KSAT Domestic Violence webpage.

About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman anchors KSAT’s weekend evening shows and reports during the week. Her ongoing Loving in Fear series confronts Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She joined KSAT in 2014 and is proud to call the SA and South Texas community home. She came to San Antonio from KYTX CBS 19 in Tyler, where she also anchored & reported.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.