The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that a Tennessee man who was found dead in his car is not legally considered a victim of the deadly 2009 mass shooting in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The case was the first to be heard on the merits of a federal appeals court ruling that says the death of musician and father of three Eric Casebolt was not a homicide by self-inflicted gunshot or a homicide due to the use of a firearm in self-defense.
The ruling by the 5th U.K. Circuit Court of Appeal is the latest blow to gun rights advocates who have long argued that a gun in the hands of someone who is not the intended aggressor, such as a police officer, could be used to commit a crime.
Casebolt, 32, had been staying at a friend’s house in Tennessee at the time of the mass shooting, but he had no prior criminal record and was living with a family member.
His mother told police Casebolt had been drinking and he left to go to the mall.
Casebol was killed on June 23, 2009.
The gun was found on a nearby lawn after an investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, according to police.
The court said the evidence suggested Casebolt killed himself, but it was not clear whether the shooting was self-defence.
The court ruled that a firearm that is designed to be used in self defense can still be used for an act of violence that is committed with intent to kill, and it was “not appropriate” to limit the use or sale of such weapons to the police.
“The court does not consider a firearm, other than an antique or a firearm of a certain type, to be a weapon of self-protection,” it said.
The decision also rejected a lawsuit brought by the family of Casebolt, saying it would not be fair to hold a public forum on the issue of self defense and that it was a public official’s job to provide information about the subject of an inquiry.
“It is not appropriate to have a public debate on the subject,” the court wrote.