When rapper Lil Wayne was arrested a few weeks ago and charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, his attorney went out of his way to bring up Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett and her opinion in Kanter vs. Barr that not all felony convictions should come with a lifetime prohibition on gun ownership.
To me, that signaled that Wayne was prepared to fight the charges, but on Friday the 38-year old, whose real name is Dwayne Michael Carter, decided to plead guilty to having a gold-plated .45 in his private jet when it landed in Miami on December 23rd, 2019, despite facing the potential for spending the next ten years behind bars.
Carter’s attorney Howard Srebnick told reporters that he believed Wayne could likely have had the search of his plane suppressed, but his client wanted to accept responsibility for his crime.
‘I must say I thought it was a very viable motion. He has decided not to pursue a motion to suppress,’ Srebnick said.
Srebnick previously argued that the circumstances were fit for Supreme Court review because the issue of a convicted felon possessing a gun hadn’t been decided as a constitutional question under the Second Amendment.
He noted an opinion from Justice Amy Coney Barrett, prior to her being confirmed to the Supreme Court last month, in which she argued that only dangerous felons should be stripped of their rights to bear arms under the Second Amendment.
‘Although the Supreme Court has not yet decided the constitutional question, Justice Amy Coney Barrett recently wrote an appellate dissenting opinion in which she stated that ‘absent evidence that he either belongs to a dangerous category or bears individual markers of risk, permanently disqualifying [a convicted felon] from possessing a gun violates the Second Amendment’.’
What if Lil Wayne decided to take a chance on Donald Trump rather than Amy Coney Barrett? The rapper endorsed Trump weeks before the election, and there’ve been reports that the president is offering pardons “like Christmas presents” at the moment. By pleading guilty now the rapper can be pardoned by the president before his sentencing in January, and in my opinion the pardon is absolutely warranted and would serve the interest of justice.
Dwayne Carter has a felony record because he pled guilty back in 2009 to possessing a gun without a license in New York City. Two years earlier, after Lil Wayne’s first headlining concert in New York, police searched his tour bus after claiming to have smelled marijuana. Inside, they found a .40 caliber handgun that they eventually connected via DNA to Carter.
There was no charge connected to a crime of violence; just a simple non-violent possessory offense, but this was in the middle of Michael Bloomberg’s time as mayor, when the number of stops-and-frisks were soaring into the hundreds of thousands and dubious searches like this were taking place on a daily basis, in the name of “gun safety.” Carter ended up serving eight months in Riker’s Island for something that isn’t even a crime in many states, and is a misdemeanor in many others. Beyond his incarceration, Carter also lost his right to keep and bear arms for the rest of his life, all thanks to New York City’s gun control laws that treat the Second Amendment as a second class right.
Under the Barrett standard, Dwayne Carter doesn’t seem to meet the definition of dangerous to me. Since his release from prison in 2010, Carter hasn’t had any more arrests or convictions for violent charges, and he’s accepted responsibility for possessing the gun in this most recent offense. The idea of Carter spending ten years in a federal prison for possessing a gun as a felon, given the circumstances of that original felony, is repugnant to the idea of justice in a nation where we possess the right to keep and bear arms.
President Donald Trump has the power to pardon Dwayne Carter and spare him the indignity of going to prison for possessing a gun that he never should have been prohibited from owning in the first place. A pardon would restore all of Carter’s rights in the process, including his Second Amendment rights It’s unclear whether the presidential pardon would restore his Second Amendment rights, given the fact that his original conviction was for a state-level offense, but for those of us who view New York City’s gun possession laws as unconstitutional infringements on the right of the People to keep and bear arms, a full pardon would be, at the very least, an incredibly important step towards the only truly just outcome; a full restoration of his rights.