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Washington (AFP) – The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to hear a case that would determine if someone convicted of domestic violence could be allowed, in some cases, to own a gun.

The top U.S. court, the final arbiter of America’s most burning legal questions, will hear a challenge to a 1996 law making it illegal for someone to possess a firearm if they have been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence involving physical force or a deadly weapon.

James Castleman, from Tennessee, in 2001 pleaded guilty under that state’s law to one count of “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” against the mother of his child.

In 2009, he was found to be in possession of various guns and was charged with “illegal possession of a firearm by a person convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence.”

At the time, he allegedly was purchasing guns and selling them on the black market.

But in September of last year, a U.S. appeals court in Cincinnati, Ohio ruled that the federal weapons law does not apply in Castleman’s case.

The appeals court judge threw out the charges because Tennessee’s misdemeanor domestic assault law does not require that physical force be used — a very low standard in the eyes of the federal court.

But the Obama administration, in its challenge to the appeals court ruling, wrote in a court petition that the ruling, if allowed to stand, would render the law “largely inoperative,” since various states have differing definitions for what constitutes domestic violence.

The court is to hear arguments in the case next January.

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