Judging From His Grilling of Amy Coney Barrett, Sen. Richard Durbin Thinks Voting Is More Important Than Staying Alive
When Sen. Richard Durbin (D–Ill.) grilled Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett about her critique of categorical bans on gun ownership by people with felony records yesterday, he misrepresented her view of voting rights. He also made a dubious statement about the relative importance of casting a ballot vs. exercising the fundamental right of self-defense that betrays a casual disregard for the latter.
In the 2019 case Kanter v. Barr, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit upheld state and federal laws that ban gun possession by people convicted of felonies, regardless of whether their crimes involved violence. Rickey Kanter, a Wisconsin man who had been convicted of mail fraud, argued that such bans violate the Second Amendment because they deprive people of the right to arms even when they have never demonstrated any violent tendencies.
In her dissent from the 7th Circuit’s rejection of that argument, Barrett challenged the idea that the original public understanding of the Second Amendment was consistent with “virtue-based restrictions” on the right to arms. Historically, she said, “such restrictions applied to civic rights like voting and jury service, not to individual rights like the right to possess a gun.”
Durbin latched onto that distinction to suggest that Barrett has no problem with disenfranchising people when they are convicted of felonies. “You said disqualifying a person from voting…because of a felony is OK, but when it comes to the possession of firearms, wait a minute, we’re talking about the individual right of a Second Amendment,” he said. “I don’t get it.”
According to Durbin’s gloss, Barrett thinks “a felony should not disqualify Rickey from buying an AK-47, but using a felony conviction in someone’s past to deny them the right to vote is all right.” That conclusion “is hard to swallow,” he said. “I think the right to vote should be given at least as much respect as an
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