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Clarence Thomas Breaks 10-Year Silence: Speaks from Bench in Defense of Gun Rights


On February 29, during a Supreme Court case revolving around misdemeanor domestic abusers and gun rights, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas broke his 10-year silence from the bench to ask the government’s lawyer to list any other situation where a  “misdemeanor violation suspends a constitutional right.”

Thomas’ question came in Voisine v United States, a case revolving around the loss of constitutional rights due to a misdemeanor charge of domestic abuse.


The plaintiff, Stephan Voisine, was arrested in 2009 for shooting a protected species. This eventually led to charges over illegal gun possession tied to a 2003 conviction of a “domestic violence misdemeanor.” The Huffington Post explains:

Under a federal law called the Lautenberg Amendment, if you’ve been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor, you can’t own or buy a gun. If you’re caught with one, as Voisine was, you can face up to 10 years behind bars. In 2011, Voisine was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.

Voisine filed suit, arguing that his Second Amendment rights ought not to have been taken to begin with, and he is joined by another citizen whose Second Amendment rights were similarly taken. This case is currently before the Supreme Court and Justice Thomas spoke up when assistant solicitor general Ilana Eisenstein argued for applying a federal ban at the state level in misdemeanor cases where the domestic offense was committed “recklessly.”

According to the HuffPo, Thomas asked, “Can you give me an area [of law] where a misdemeanor violation suspends a constitutional right?” For example, regarding the First Amendment, Thomas said “Let’s say that a publisher is reckless about the use of children … in indecent displays.” He asked if that means that the publisher in view loses the “right of free press permanently?”

CBS News reports that Thomas also wanted Eisenstein to confirm whether the loss of Second Amendment rights was being pursued for misdemeanors in which a weapon was not necessarily used. He asked, “The suspension is not directly related to the use of a weapon?” and Eisnestein confirmed that it was not.

AWR Hawkins is the Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at

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