Clarence Thomas, the second Black Supreme Court Justice, spoke from the bench for the first time in 10 years about a criminal law case involving domestic abusers requesting the right to own firearms. Federal law in the Lautenberg Amendment states that those convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors can’t buy or own a gun. Violation of this law will result in 10 years of incarceration.
Thomas, a known defender of the 2nd Amendment, made an argument that a “misdemeanor violation” is not a crime in any other area of law that “suspends a constitutional right.” The Supreme Court Justice also made the point that there is no other law in existence that, upon conviction, allows the federal government to indefinitely strip constitutional liberties for an offense that is unrelated.
The Supreme Court Justice is known for not speaking during oral arguments. His reasoning is that he wants to give every advocate the chance to fully speak their piece. In an interview with Bryan Garner he said, “It bothers me if someone has to leave this building thinking, ‘I couldn’t get my point over,’ or ‘I didn’t get to say my piece.'”
In a closing line of questioning, Thomas used an allegory to make his point. “Let’s say that a publisher is reckless about the use of children, and what could be considered indecent displays and that that triggers a violation of, say, a hypothetical law against the use of children in these ads…Could you suspend that publisher’s right to ever publish again?”
Voisone v. United States, the specific case that brought these questions out of the Supreme Court Justice, was not focused on the 2nd Amendment, but a secondary issue. However, Clarence felt compelled to speak out on behalf on the rights of those convicted of domestic violence to buy and own weapons, because as he posed in his final question, “Did the defendant use a weapon?”