Right Hooks

Permanent Ban on Abusers' Gun Rights Is the Wrong Prescription

The solution is more complicated than SCOTUS implies.

Jordan Candler · Jun. 28, 2016

Monday’s crucial day at the Supreme Court included an interesting case, Voisine v. United States, regarding the Second Amendment rights of domestic abusers. Guns in the hands of abusers is a legitimate and necessary concern, but like many issues the solution is a bit complicated. Yesterday, in a 6-2 ruling, the majority opinion decreed that the gun rights of individuals sanctioned for misdemeanor-level recklessness can be permanently revoked by the courts.

Writing for the majority, Justice Elena Kagan said, “In sum, Congress’s definition of a ‘misdemeanor crime of violence’ contains no exclusion for convictions based on reckless behavior. A person who assaults another recklessly ‘use[s]’ force, no less than one who carries out that same action knowingly or intentionally.”

However, the always astute Justice Clarence Thomas argued otherwise. He wrote in his dissent, “[T]he majority fails to explain why mere recklessness in creating force — as opposed to recklessness in causing harm with intentional force — is sufficient.”

The ruling, Thomas goes on to explain, “imposes a lifetime ban on possessing a gun for all non-felony domestic offenses, including so-called infractions or summary offenses. … These infractions, like traffic tickets, are so minor that individuals do not have a right to trial by jury. … [T]his decision leaves the right to keep and bear arms up to the discretion of federal, state, and local prosecutors. We treat no other constitutional right so cavalierly.”

Prior to the Clinton administration, the standard for losing the right to possess firearms was a felony conviction. This case is similar to the arguments against the “no-fly” list ban on firearms possession. There are too many people who would be added to this list without sufficient justification because of the vast difference between a misdemeanor charge and a felony charge. Nobody wants a dangerous abuser to possess firearms. But justice Thomas has it right and his dissent regarding a lifetime firearms ban for a misdemeanor conviction.

Oddly enough, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe recently reinstated the voting rights of hundreds of thousands of ex-convicts, whose crimes are far more egregious than those whose gun rights were just unreasonably annulled by the Supreme Court. Talk about a double standard.

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