Blumenthal incorrectly insists Barrett once called her own gun position 'radical' in opinion

October 13, 2020 

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., while asking Judge Amy Coney Barrett about her dissent in a gun rights case, incorrectly quoted her as admitting in her opinion that her position was radical, only to insist he was right when she questioned him.

Barrett's dissent was in the case of Kanter v. Barr, in which the majority opinion upheld a state law that forbade convicted felons from owning guns even when the conviction stemmed from a guilty plea to a single count of mail fraud. Barrett argued that where the defendant posed no danger to society, there was no constitutional basis for depriving them of their Second Amendment rights.

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"Your opinion in Kanter goes farther than Justice Scalia in Heller," Blumenthal said Tuesday during Barrett's confirmation hearing, referencing the 2007 Supreme Court decision that upheld the right to own a firearm for lawful use not connected to a militia. "In fact, you characterize it as kind of radical. It is in effect an outlier. And it is in fact radical."

"Did I say it was radical in the opinion?" Barrett asked.

"I think you said, quote, 'it sounds kind of radical to say felons can have firearms.' That's a direct quote."

"I didn't remember that particular language," Barrett said, adding that she did not want to nitpick.

"We can look it up," Blumenthal said.

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If Blumenthal were to look it up, he would find that he was mistaken, as the language does not appear in Barrett's dissent. Where it did appear was in a discussion Barrett had about her dissent at Hillsdale College on May 21, 2019, but not in the context Blumenthal implied.

Answering a question about her dissent at that event, Barrett explained that because of the relative lack of Supreme Court precedent in gun rights cases, she did a "deep dive" into past arguments to fully explore the issue.

"I concluded after surveying all of the arguments ... that there was no blanket authorization to just take guns, the right to possess a gun away from someone who committed a felony," Barrett said. "That sounds kind of radical to say felons can have firearms, but I think that's because what the long-standing prohibitions were, and in fact had been even under federal law until more recently, were that violent felons couldn't have firearms. And there's a longstanding, what the history showed me, was that there's been a longstanding practice of saying that those who have--who pose a threat of violence to the community cannot have firearms. And that makes sense, right? History is consistent with common sense. Those who would be risky with guns, who would pose a danger with guns, then the state can take guns away."

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In that conversation at Hillsdale College, Barrett went on to defend her position by saying she "found no historical support" for taking guns away from people who did not pose a threat of violence. She even said that it is "a little odd" to say otherwise, given how broadly some states define felonies.

"So there's not really a limit on what states can choose to define as felonies," she said, "and so it seems a little bit odd to say that the scope of one's Second Amendment right would depend on what a state chooses to define as a felony or not."

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