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Four Takeaways on the Second Amendment From Judge Barrett’s Confirmation Hearing

October 15, 2020

During this week’s confirmation hearing, Judge Amy Coney Barrett offered the clearest proof to date that she could be a pivotal vote against life-saving gun safety laws if appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Barrett doubled down on an extreme interpretation of the Second Amendment, saying it “shows my judicial philosophy,” and she concerningly refused to say that voter intimidation (which has been illegal for decades) is illegal.

To request an interview on what we saw this week, please don’t hesitate to reach out to [email protected].  

Below are four key takeaways:

1) Judge Barrett Reiterated Her Extreme Belief That Some People Convicted of Serious Felonies Should Be Able To Own Guns

Discussing her dissent in the Second Amendment case Kanter v. Barr, Judge Barrett once again made clear her view that some people convicted of serious felonies should be able to own guns — a truly extreme position that no appeals court has adopted:

“What I did was apply Heller’s methodology…and I concluded that based on that history one couldn’t take the right away simply because one was a felon.”

As Salon reported Thursday, Judge Barrett’s position that some felons should be able to possess guns is at odds with the stated positions of Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC), as well as Republican Committee members Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ted Cruz (R-TX), John Cornyn (R-TX), Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Josh Hawley (R-MO). 

2) Judge Barrett Said her Alarming Dissent in Second Amendment Case ‘Shows My Judicial Philosophy’

During a separate exchange on Kanter v. Barr, Judge Barrett said:  

“What I can say is that my opinion in Kanter shows my judicial philosophy. I spend a lot of time looking at the history of the Second Amendment and Supreme Court cases. The way in which I would approach the review of gun regulations is in the same way. To look very carefully at the text, to look at what the original meaning was.”

3) Judge Barrett’s Nomination Drew Support From Judge Who Authored One of the Most Extreme Decisions on Carrying Firearms in Public

When Senate Republicans called witnesses to defend Judge Barrett on Thursday, they chose retired federal appeals court judge Thomas Griffith, who authored one of the most extreme decisions to date on carrying firearms in public.

Specifically, Judge Griffith authored the D.C. Circuit’s opinion in Wrenn v. District of Columbia, which struck down a gun safety law regulating the carrying of firearms in public. Judge Griffith’s decision, which did not take into account the public safety effects of striking the law down, is inconsistent with how every other federal court of appeals has treated the law at issue, which requires individuals to demonstrate “good cause” in order to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon in public. It stands in sharp contrast to decisions of the First, Second, Third, Fourth and Ninth Circuits, which upheld similar laws in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland and California.

35 states require a permit to carry a loaded, concealed handgun in public, a policy the gun lobby has tried to undermine through lawsuits like Wrenn v. D.C., challenging good-cause public carry requirements.

4) Judge Barrett Refused to Say That Voter Intimidation is Illegal

In an exchange with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Judge Barrett on Tuesday refused to say that voter intimidation — which has been prohibited under federal law for decades — is illegal. 

Sen. Klobuchar: Judge Barrett, under federal law, is it illegal to intimidate voters at the polls?

Judge Barrett: Senator Klobuchar, I can’t characterize the facts in a hypothetical situation, and I can’t apply the law to a hypothetical set of facts. I can only decide cases as they come to me, litigated by parties on a full record after fully engaging precedent, talking to colleagues, writing an opinion and so I can’t answer questions like that.

Sen. Klobuchar: OK. Well, I’ll make — I’ll make it easier. 18 USC 594 outlaws anyone who intimidates, threatens, coerces or attempts to intimidate, threaten or coerce any other person for the purpose of interfering with the right of such other person to vote. 

If Judge Barrett is confirmed, nearly every gun safety law could be at risk, including bedrock laws like background checks on all gun sales, red flag laws, and measures to disarm domestic abusers –– all of which are supported by overwhelming majorities of American voters. A more detailed analysis can be found in this memo detailing Judge Barrett’s extreme positions on the Second Amendment, this memo on how this Supreme Court confirmation could impact gun safety in the U.S, and this chart showing which states’ gun safety laws are at risk. 

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