Justice Amy Coney Barrett is already making her presence felt on the Supreme Court and may soon play a decisive role in expanding gun rights. The case involves Lisa M. Folajtar, who has argued that a federal law prohibiting her from buying a gun because of a felony conviction for tax evasion is a violation of her Second Amendment rights, according to the New York Times. Her challenge was rejected by a three-judge panel in the Philadelphia court of appeals, keeping in line with the position of the current Justice Department.
The Times reported that lawyers for Attorney General William Barr told the appeals court that “the right to keep and bear arms is analogous to other civic rights that have historically been subject to forfeiture by individuals convicted of crimes, including the right to vote, the right to serve on a jury and the right to hold public office.” While previously serving on the federal appeals court in Chicago, Barrett notably wrote a dissent regarding Second Amendment rights and felony convictions. “Founding-era legislatures categorically disarmed groups whom they judged to be a threat to the public safety, but neither the convention proposals nor historical practice supports a legislative power to categorically disarm felons because of their status as felons,” she wrote. Barrett argued that Second Amendment rights should not be lost if the crime committed was non-violent.
If the case appears before the Supreme Court, it’s likely that Barrett, along with the court’s four most conservative justices, will side with Folajtar. In 2017, Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch wrote that they had detected “a distressing trend: the treatment of the Second Amendment as a disfavored right,” according to the Times. Prior to her passing, the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had been known to support “sensible gun laws” and her absence means the Supreme Court now stands at a 6-3 conservative majority. Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative, has sided with the court’s more liberal wing in some cases, including earlier this year when the court rejected challenges to virus-related restrictions on churches in California and Nevada.
Last week, Barrett voted against COVID-19 restrictions barring New York state from reimposing limits on religious gatherings. “The emergency rulings,” noted Politico, “were the first significant indication of a rightward shift in the court since President Donald Trump’s newest appointee filled the seat.” In an unsigned opinion, the court wrote, “Stemming the spread of COVID–19 is unquestionably a compelling interest, but it is hard to see how the challenged regulations can be regarded as ‘narrowly tailored.’” The court added that the restrictions were “far more restrictive than any COVID–related regulations that have previously come before the Court, much tighter than those adopted by many other jurisdictions hard-hit by the pandemic, and far more severe than has been shown to be required to prevent the spread of the virus at the applicants’ services.”
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