Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

Second Amendment as Second-Class Right? A Dismal Warning

Friday, March 4, 2016

Second Amendment as Second-Class Right? A Dismal Warning

A case involving the scope of firearm prohibitions prompted Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to break his more than decade-long silent streak on the bench. Justice Thomas last asked a question in February 2006, but he made headlines on February 29 by asking a question during oral argument in the case of Voisine v. United States. Unfortunately, commentators seized on the fact that he spoke at all, rather than the troubling implications of what he had to say.

The Voisine case arises out of the prohibition in the Gun Control Act, 18 U.S.C. §922(g)(9), which prohibits those convicted of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence,” as that offense is defined, from possession of firearms and ammunition.

The defendants in Voisine had been convicted of domestic violence under Maine’s simple assault statute, which defines “assault” as including “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly caus[ing] bodily injury or offensive physical contact” to another person. Neither had used a firearm or weapon of any kind in committing the offense. The question before the Court is the scope of the federal definition and whether it extends to misdemeanors which include reckless conduct as well as more deliberate conduct where there is an intent to harm. (Under that formulation, for example, an individual who injures a family member while recklessly driving could commit a qualifying domestic violence offense, potentially resulting in a permanent ban on firearm possession.)

As Assistant U.S. Solicitor General Ilana Eisenstein was winding up her argument in support of the expansive interpretation, Justice Thomas interjected to ask that she identify another “constitutional right that can be suspended based upon a misdemeanor violation of a State law.” While she struggled to conceive of a responsive example, Justice Thomas persisted in his line of questions, noting, “[Y]ou’re saying that recklessness is sufficient to trigger a … misdemeanor violation of domestic conduct that results in a lifetime ban on possession of a gun, which, at least as of now, is still a constitutional right.”

Apart from being a stark reminder that the Court today is not what it was four weeks ago before Justice Antonin Scalia’s untimely death, this signals just how close the Court may be to undermining the Second Amendment interpretation offered in District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008. Only four of the current eight justices joined the late Justice Scalia’s majority opinion in Heller, recognizing that the Second Amendment protects a personal right to keep and bear arms for lawful purposes, most notably for self-defense within the home. Since then, several lower courts have chipped away at or ignored Heller’s fundamental premise.

Justice Thomas had previously warned of this slide towards what he called “relegating the Second Amendment to a second-class right,” in his dissent over the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the “assault weapons” ban case, Friedman v. City of Highland Park. Joined by Justice Scalia, he observed that the “Court’s refusal to review a decision that flouts two of our Second Amendment precedents stands in marked contrast to the Court’s willingness to summarily reverse courts that disregard our other constitutional decisions.”

As we pointed out in an earlier alert, given these numbers, “future appointments to the Court will determine whether Heller is overturned, limited to nothing more than the possession of a handgun for protection within the home, or expanded to expressly protect the right to keep and bear all arms that are necessary for the entire range of defensive purposes, as the Framers of the Bill of Rights intended.”

The decision in the Voisine case is pending. So is the future of the Second Amendment.

TRENDING NOW
Washington State Firearm Confiscation Law Found Unconstitutional

News  

Monday, October 26, 2020

Washington State Firearm Confiscation Law Found Unconstitutional

Earlier this year, in a ruling of first impression in Washington State, the Kitsap County District Court decided that the state’s compulsory “firearm surrender” laws violated the Fourth and Fifth Amendments and the analogous provisions ...

The Incredible Shrinking Gun Control Message

News  

Monday, October 26, 2020

The Incredible Shrinking Gun Control Message

Throughout the two presidential debates and single vice-presidential debate the moderators did not ask a single question about gun control or the right to keep and bear arms. The dearth of coverage on Second Amendment issues at ...

Was Bloomberg Group Shamed Into Being (Sort of) Honest?

News  

Monday, October 26, 2020

Was Bloomberg Group Shamed Into Being (Sort of) Honest?

The gun-ban proponents at Everytown, New York Billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s personal anti-gun advocacy apparatus, have finally begun talking about guns in their political ads. In August and September, we pointed out that Everytown seemed rather focused in its ...

Anti-gun Politicians Seek to Tax Your Second Amendment Rights Into Oblivion

News  

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Anti-gun Politicians Seek to Tax Your Second Amendment Rights Into Oblivion

In 1819, Chief Justice John Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court famously wrote:  “the power to tax involves the power to destroy ….”

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

Gun Laws  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law.

Your Action Needed: Urge the Department of Justice to Rein in ATF's Arbitrary Determination on "Honey Badger" Pistol!

News  

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Your Action Needed: Urge the Department of Justice to Rein in ATF's Arbitrary Determination on "Honey Badger" Pistol!

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) recently informed firearm manufacturer Q, LLC that, in ATF’s view, Q’s “Honey Badger” pistol with stabilizing brace is actually a short-barreled rifle and therefore subject to the National ...

The NRA Applauds Confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett

News  

Monday, October 26, 2020

The NRA Applauds Confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett

The NRA applauds President Trump and his nomination of Justice Barrett, along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for their leadership and service during the confirmation process.

Joe Biden Told Voters the Second Amendment DOES NOT Protect an Individual Right

News  

Monday, September 21, 2020

Joe Biden Told Voters the Second Amendment DOES NOT Protect an Individual Right

During a September 2019 “townhall” hosted by New Hampshire ABC affiliate WMUR, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden made clear that he does not believe the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms and ...

Please Urge the Department of Justice to Rein in ATF's Arbitrary Determination on "Honey Badger" Pistol

News  

Monday, October 12, 2020

Please Urge the Department of Justice to Rein in ATF's Arbitrary Determination on "Honey Badger" Pistol

As we reported last week, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) recently informed firearm manufacturer Q, LLC that, in ATF’s view, Q’s “Honey Badger” pistol with stabilizing brace is actually a short-barreled rifle and ...

Gun Control May be Wasting Away, But Not Because of COVID

News  

Monday, October 19, 2020

Gun Control May be Wasting Away, But Not Because of COVID

A recent article on a gun control news site laments that the COVID-19 pandemic has thwarted ballot initiatives to expand gun bans and restrictions. Initiatives in Florida, Oklahoma, Ohio and Oregon have stalled, allegedly due to the ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -

More Like This From Around The NRA

NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.