Conservative Supreme Court Justices are on alert for a promising case in which to expand Second Amendment rights, having written repeatedly and emphatically about the court’s failure to take gun rights seriously. Justice Amy Coney Barrett seems poised to supply the fifth vote they need, the New York Times reports. A case decided last week by the federal appeals court in Philadelphia, which presents an issue on which Barrett has taken a stand, is a candidate. Lisa Folajtar wants to buy a gun, but she pleaded guilty to tax evasion, which means under federal law she may not possess firearms. She sued, arguing that the law violated her Second Amendment rights. A divided three-judge panel rejected her challenge, saying that committing a serious crime has consequences. It can lead to losing the right to vote, to serve on a jury or to have a gun.
The ruling adopted the position of the Trump Justice Department. “The right to keep and bear arms is analogous to other civic rights that have historically been subject to forfeiture by individuals convicted of crimes,” said DOJ lawyers. In dissent, Judge Stephanos Bibas, a former law professor and Donald Trump appointee, wrote that the framers of the Constitution would not have allowed lawmakers to bar felons convicted of nonviolent crimes from owning guns. Bibas drew heavily from a dissent in a similar case concerning a man convicted of mail fraud. That dissent was written by Barrett on the federal appeals court in Chicago. The law forbidding people with felony convictions from owning guns, she wrote, should not apply when the crimes in question were nonviolent. The high court has not issued a major Second Amendment decision since rulings in 2008 and 2010 established an individual right for law-abiding citizens to keep guns in their homes for self-defense.