Barrett admits to owning a gun, says she can set aside beliefs to rule on 2nd Amendment fairly

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Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett admitted during the second day of her confirmation hearing that her family owns a gun —  but maintained that it would not hamper her ability to fairly decide a case on the Second Amendment. 

"When it comes to your personal views about this topic, do you own a gun?" Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham asked Barrett at the start of the hearing. 

"We do own a gun," she said. 

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Pressed by Graham whether she believed she could "fairly decide a case even though you own a gun," Barrett responded: "Yes."

"Judges can't wake up one day and say I have an agenda, I like guns, I hate guns, I like abortion, I hate abortion and walk in like a royal queen and impose their will on the world," she said. "You have to wait for cases and controversies, which is the language of the Consitution, to wind their way through the process." 

The Supreme Court has largely avoided taking on major cases involving the Second Amendment since 2008, when the nation's highest court ruled that people have a right to keep handguns in their homes to defend themselves. 

But gun control advocates worry that if Barrett wins Senate confirmation, tilting the Supreme Court 6-3 in favor of conservatives, the court's approach to the Second Amendment could see a major shift. (During day one of the confirmation hearing, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., accused Barrett of having "radical" and "activist" views on the Second Amendment). 

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“If your views on the Second Amendment are adopted by the Supreme Court, it would imperil common-sense state laws like Connecticut’s all around the country,” Blumenthal said. 

Barrett's record on the Second Amendment is thin; she has just one opinion on the issue, a dissent in 2019 in a case before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case, Kanter v. Barr, involved the owner and proprietor of a Wisconsin firm called Dr. Comfort — Ricky Kanter — who was convicted of one count of mail fraud in 2004. Though he served his full sentence, Kanter's status as a felon prevented him from lawfully owning a firearm under both federal law and Wisconsin law. Kanter sued the U.S. government and the state of Wisconsin, arguing they violated the Second Amendment. 

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The federal district court rejected his claims and the Seventh Circuit upheld the lower court's ruling. But Barrett, in a lone 38-page dissent, argued that the Consitution did not intend to deny gun ownership to all criminals, just those who could be dangerous. 

“Neither Wisconsin nor the United States has introduced data sufficient to show that disarming all nonviolent felons substantially advances its interest in keeping the public safe,” she wrote. “Nor have they otherwise demonstrated that Kanter himself shows a proclivity for violence. Absent evidence that he either belongs to a dangerous category or bears individual markers of risk, permanently disqualifying Kanter from possessing a gun violates the Second Amendment.”

Barrett echoed that sentiment again on Tuesday during her confirmation hearing. 

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"The original meaning of the Second Amendment does support the idea that governments are free to keep guns out of the hands of the dangerous, such as the mentally ill," she said. 

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