Gun rights

In a dissent in the 2019 gun-rights case of Kanter v. Barr, Barrett argued that a conviction for a nonviolent felony — in this case, mail fraud — shouldn’t automatically disqualify someone from owning a gun. The two judges in the majority agreed with Trump administration arguments that the defendant, Rickey Kanter, could not own a gun under federal or Wisconsin law because of his criminal conviction. Barrett used most of her 37-page dissent to lay out the history of gun rules for convicted criminals in the 18th and 19th centuries, consistent with her embrace of interpreting laws and the Constitution according to the meaning they had when they were adopted. Barrett wrote that “while both Wisconsin and the United States have an unquestionably strong interest in protecting the public from gun violence, they have failed to show, by either logic or data that disarming Kanter substantially advances that interest." She said that her colleagues were treating the Second Amendment as a “second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees." Barrett quoted from a 2010 opinion by Justice Samuel Alito that extended gun rights, but the phrase also has been used more recently by Justice Clarence Thomas and other conservatives to complain that the Supreme Court has shied away from recognizing gun rights.

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