As Democrats sharpen their rhetorical knives in preparation for the upcoming confirmation fight over Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals judge Amy Comey Barrett to the Supreme Court, gun control groups are already attacking the nominee over her views on the Second Amendment. At USA Today, Moms Demand Action’s Shannon Watts is doing her best to scare suburban moms by portraying Barrett as a judge with “an alarming interpretation of the Second Amendment” who would put countless gun control laws at risk with her view that the right of the people to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right of Americans.
Judge Barrett’s dangerous views were on full display just last year, when she and two other judges heard an appeal from a man who claimed his serious felony conviction should not have prohibited him from possessing firearms. Dissenting from her two colleagues — both appointed by President Ronald Reagan — Judge Barrett sided with the plaintiff, taking an outlier approach to Second Amendment analysis that no federal appeals court has ever adopted. She even went out of her way to endorse a gun lobby-backed interpretation of a 14th century English firearms law — a law unrelated to the case at hand but central to many recent and ongoing challenges to public safety laws regulating the carrying of guns in public.
Dangerous? Hardly. Watts makes it sound like Barrett would give violent felons a firearm as they leave prison, when it fact the case involved a Wisconsin man who was convicted of one felony count of mail fraud for allegedly getting Medicare reimbursement funds through sales of unapproved shoe inserts. That’s not a violent crime, and Barrett’s dissent in the decision to bar the man from legally being allowed to own a firearm was soundly based in both history and tradition, as National Review‘s Ed Whelan recently pointed out.
Based on her extensive marshalling and analysis of the historical evidence, Judge Barrett concludes that the Second Amendment leaves legislatures the power to prohibit dangerous people from possessing guns but that felons do not lose their Second Amendment rights solely because of their status as felons. The federal government and the state of Wisconsin failed to show that disarming all nonviolent felons is carefully tailored to the goal of protecting public safety, nor did they show that mail fraud is substantially related to violent behavior. They also failed to demonstrate that anything else in Kanter’s history or characteristics made him likely to misuse firearms. Therefore, they could not bar him from possessing a firearm.
It’s true that Amy Coney Barrett would likely take a dim view of many of the gun control laws that Shannon Watts and her fellow gun-banners have put in place over the past decades, but that’s because of Barrett’s not-so-shocking view that the Second Amendment actually means what it says; the right to keep and bear arms is a right of the People that can’t be infringed by the government. For the gun control movement, that’s the true danger of having Barrett on the Supreme Court, as Watts makes clear.
Over the past few years, Moms Demand Action volunteers have taken on the NRA at the ballot box, in statehouses and in Congress. Our movement is winning. But our progress on this public health crisis, and on racial justice and so many critical issues, can be halted — and even reversed — with one more Trump-appointed Supreme Court justice. Every one of our nearly 6 million supporters will fight like hell to make sure that the American people –– not President Trump and Sen. McConnell –– get to decide who picks Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s replacement.
Justice Ginsburg fought for us for decades. Now, it’s our turn.