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Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Views on the Second Amendment Are Extreme and Dangerous

October 7, 2020

Ahead of next week’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court, below is some key context when it comes to gun laws and the Second Amendment. If Judge Barrett is confirmed, nearly every gun safety law could be at risk, including bedrock laws like background checks on all handgun 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. 

Judge Barrett’s alarming dissent in Kanter v. Barr: 

  • ​Last year, Judge Barrett authored a dissent in which she wrote that barring non-violent felons — even serious felons like the plaintiff in the case at hand — from possessing guns violates the Second Amendment. The two other judges on the panel, from whose majority opinion Judge Barrett dissented, were both Reagan appointees.
  • In reaching this conclusion, she adopted a dangerous Second Amendment analysis that largely ignored any questions of public safety, focusing instead on what she found to be the absence of analogous laws during the Founding Era. Judge Barrett even went so far as to say that prohibiting a serious felon like Kanter from possessing firearms would be “treat[ing] the Second Amendment as a ‘second-class right’” — echoing language regularly invoked by both the gun lobby and the Supreme Court’s most extreme Second Amendment Justices.
  • No federal court of appeals has adopted the approach that Judge Barrett did in the case and allowed, as she would, those convicted of felonies to possess guns.

Second Amendment Issues at Stake in Upcoming Supreme Court Terms:

  • Federal appeals courts have upheld almost every gun law challenged since the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller. When the Supreme Court ruled in its first major gun case in almost a decade earlier this year, it denied the NRA a ruling on the merits. Weeks later, the Court announced it would not hear any of the other gun cases in which opponents of gun laws had petitioned for high court review.
  • With Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the court now open, the NRA and its allies see a chance to stack the court with a pivotal additional vote against gun safety laws. Among the first issues that could come before the Supreme Court in upcoming terms are laws regulating the carrying of guns in public, prohibitions on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, laws restricting the purchase and possession of guns by young people, and laws prohibiting possession by domestic abusers and others with dangerous histories. 
  • A new Supreme Court majority could also conceivably change the standard of review in Second Amendment cases, a development that could put nearly every gun law at risk. 

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