Barrett defends opinion on gun rights for felons

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett is defending an opinion she wrote arguing that a person who’s convicted of a nonviolent felony should not automatically be disqualified from owning a gun.

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois challenged Barrett’s argument, saying it would make it easier for felons to bring guns into his home city of Chicago, which is plagued by gun violence caused in part by guns brought in from Barrett’s home state of Indiana.

In a dissent in the 2019 gun rights case of Kanter v. Barr, Barrett argued a conviction for a nonviolent felony such as mail fraud was not enough to disqualify someone from owning a gun.

Durbin accused Barrett of judicial activism, noting a Supreme Court ruling by Barrett’s mentor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, upheld the idea that felons can be barred from gun ownership.



Barrett is facing senators’ questions during a second day of confirmation hearings. Republicans control the Senate and want to confirm President Donald Trump’s pick to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before Election Day to cement a conservative court majority.

Read more:

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11:50 a.m.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett says the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May had a “very personal” effect on her family and she and her children wept over his death.

President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court made the comments at her Senate confirmation hearings on Tuesday, three weeks before Election Day. Barrett was asked by Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin whether she had seen the footage of a police officer pressing a knee to the Black man’s neck until he stopped breathing. Barrett said she had.

Barrett has two Black adopted children. She says the Floyd video was “very, very personal” for her family and they “wept together.”

Floyd’s death touched off mass demonstrations about police brutality and reform around the country.

Barrett made a distinction between her feelings as a person and her role as a judge, refusing to give her thoughts on systemic racism as Durbin had requested. She said commenting on what policies should be used to combat racism would be “kind of beyond what I’m capable of doing as a judge.”


11:35 a.m.

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett insists she does not necessarily oppose the Affordable Care Act, the health care law that’s being challenged in a case heading to the court next month.

Barrett told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday she’s “not hostile to the ACA.”

Barrett is being questioned about her past writings, including a piece in which she was critical of Chief Justice John Roberts’ previous rulings on the Obama-era law.

The appellate court judge distanced herself from those writings, saying they were not addressing specific aspects of the law as she would if confirmed. The court is set to hear a challenge to the law Nov. 10.

Barrett told the senators, “I apply the law. I follow the law. You make the policy.”

Still, Barrett appeared stumped when grilled by Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Virginia about particulars of the law, also called Obamacare. Barrett could not recite specifics, including that 23 million people are covered by the law or that more than 2 million people are on their parent’s health insurance.


10:50 a.m.

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett says she can’t give an opinion on whether she’d recuse herself from any election-related litigation involving President Donald Trump.

Barrett said Tuesday in her confirmation hearing that she has not been asked by Trump or anyone else how she’d rule in possible upcoming cases, including the election.

She says it would be a gross violation of judicial independence to make a commitment on how she’d rule. She says it’s a violation of the judicial independence to put a justice on the court as a means of obtaining a particular result.

But Trump has said he would look for justices who were anti-abortion. He’s said he wanted the full nine justices to decide election-related matters.


10:15 a.m.

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett says she can’t answer whether President Donald Trump has the power to delay the general election.

Trump floated the idea earlier this year as the coronavirus pandemic worsened. The Republican president has derided mail-in voting as rife with fraud though there is no evidence to suggest that.

But, Trump does not have the authority to unilaterally change the date of the election. Article II of the Constitution gives Congress the power to choose the timing of the general election. An 1845 federal law made the date the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked Barrett during her confirmation hearing on Tuesday if she could say whether Trump had that authority. Barrett said she’d need to confer with her colleagues and read litigation to decide the question.


10 a.m.

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett is declining to say whether she thinks Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established the right to abortion, should be struck down.

Barrett sidestepped questions about that landmark case from the Senate Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, as the panel held a second day of hearings on Barrett’s nomination.

Barrett says she won’t answer questions about whether she would rule that Roe v. Wade should be overturned because she would not join the court with “some agenda” on the subject. She says her only agenda is to “stick to the rule of law and decide cases as they come.”

Feinstein told Barrett that it was “distressing to not get a straight answer” to her question.

The conservative Barrett was nominated by President Donald Trump last month to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

One of Democrats’ biggest fears is that Barrett’s all but certain confirmation by the Republican controlled Senate would create a 6-3 conservative majority on the court that could well overturn Roe v. Wade.


9:55 a.m.

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett says the confirmation process is “excruciating” but that that she accepted President Donald Trump’s nomination because she is “committed to the rule of law” and the role of the Supreme Court.

Barrett said that “if the difficulty is the only reason to say no, I should serve my country.” She added that even though there are “momentous consequences” for her family, they are “all-in” on the decision because they share her belief in the rule of law.

Still, she said she has tried to be on a “media blackout for the sake of my mental health.”

Barrett said she and her husband “knew that our lives would be combed over for any negative detail, we knew that our faith would be caricatured, we knew our family would be attacked.”


9:40 a.m.

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett says she will be able to put aside her Catholic beliefs when ruling if she’s confirmed as a justice on the nation’s highest court.

Barrett told Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina on Tuesday she “can” set aside her Catholic beliefs and has “done that” since her confirmation as an appeals court judge in 2017. Graham chairs the Judiciary Committee overseeing Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing.

Barrett was nominated by President Donald Trump to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the court. She’s fielding questions from senators on the judiciary panel this week.

Republicans have warned Democrats against criticizing Barrett’s religion or making it an issue in the hearings, although Democrats have made clear they have no plans to do so this week.


9:30 a.m.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett says if she’s confirmed to the Supreme Court she’ll be her own justice.

Barrett has said the late Justice Antonin Scalia was a mentor to her and she was a former clerk for him. But when she was asked about her views on how she interpreted the Constitution and law at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday, she said that if confirmed the country would not be “getting Justice Scalia, you would be getting Justice Barrett.”

Barrett is facing the first day of questioning from senators in her confirmation hearings. Republicans are moving at a break-neck pace because they want to get Barrett on the court before the Nov. 3 election.

Democrats are worried about whether Barrett would strike down the Affordable Care Act. They say Republicans are rushing the confirmation process.


9 a.m.

The second day of confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett has begun.

On Tuesday, Barrett will answer questions from senators on the Judiciary Committee. A day earlier, she told the panel she believes the court should interpret the U.S. Constitution and laws “as they are written.”

Barrett said in her opening statement that people of all backgrounds deserve “an independent Supreme Court.”

Even before her confirmation hearings end, the Senate Judiciary Committee has already scheduled a Thursday vote to approve her nomination. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham scheduled a committee vote for 9 a.m. Thursday, the last day of hearings. Barrett’s nomination is expected to be brought up for a vote at that meeting and then delayed for a week, per committee rules.

Republicans are moving quickly to confirm Barrett before the presidential election Nov. 3.