Justice Thomas Breaks Decade Of Silence To Advocate For Domestic Abusers’ Gun Rights

Robyn Pennacchia | February 29, 2016 - 5:30 pm

One of the big news items of last week was the fact that Justice Clarence Thomas hadn’t asked a question on the bench for over one decade. Today, Justice Thomas broke that silence in order to question the fairness of denying people convicted of some domestic violence offenses the right to own guns, and asked for an example of another misdemeanor offense that would suspend a person’s constitutional rights.

Yes. He waited ten years to ask a question, and that question was about how it’s not fair that people convicted of domestic violence can’t have guns. Because he thinks they ought to be able to! He thinks it is a good idea for these people to have guns, and that they should have the right to do so.

Allow me to point out here that the constitution provides for the right to keep and bear arms as part of a “well-regulated” militia. If we are to ignore that whole “well-regulated” part of things, and assume that literally everyone has the constitutional right to keep and bear arms, which is not true. We do not allow felons to own guns, and we do not allow the mentally ill to own guns. This is not done as a punishment, but for our own protection. Because we have deemed it unsafe for these people to own guns.

It is similarly unsafe for perpetrators of domestic violence to own guns, shockingly enough. Over one third of female homicide victims are killed by a boyfriend or husband, and over half of those women were killed using a gun. The two weeks after a woman leaves an abuser is the period of time in which she is most likely to be killed by him. During the Iraq War, from 2001-2012, 6,488 troops were killed while serving. During that same time period, 11,766 women were killed by current or former male partners. Every day, on average, three women are murdered by current or former male partners.

The really unfortunate thing here is not that Federal Law prohibits domestic abusers from owning guns, but that 35 states still permit them to do so, in violation of this law. Also unfortunate is the fact that these laws often only kick in if the victim is the perpetrator’s actual spouse–so if you’re not married to your abuser, he or she can still keep and bear a firearm, and use it to kill you. These laws also, shockingly enough, do not even cover convicted stalkers. That means that someone can send you 85,000 letters threatening to kill you written in their own blood, and once they serve their time, can get out, get a gun and blow your brains out.

There are limitations on all constitutional rights. Some of which I agree with–like not shouting “fire!” in a crowded building or directly inciting violence–and others I don’t–like the disenfranchisement of people with felony convictions. Sending people to jail, period, technically suspends their constitutional rights. Not allowing child molesters to hang out in playgrounds technically violates their constitutional right to freedom of association.

In 1939, in  the United States vs. Miller, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment “[protects arms that had a] reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia.” Now, perhaps Justice Thomas has a different definition of “well regulated militia” than I do, but I am quite sure that allowing domestic abusers–people who are very, very likely to kill those they abuse–are not contributing to the efficiency of one.

You don’t have to be anti-gun, or even pro-gun control in general to think it’s a really bad idea for people convicted of domestic violence to have access to guns. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s a thing that the vast majority of Americans can agree on, regardless of where they stand on the 2nd Amendment.

As far as Justice Thomas is concerned–perhaps it really is best to shut one’s mouth and be thought a fool, than open it and remove all doubt.

[ThinkProgress]