Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has finally broken his decade of silence to ask leading questions about a law that strips gun rights from people convicted of domestic violence.

Thomas last spoke during an oral argument in 2006. Meanwhile, his wife Ginny became such a successful conservative activist that it created clear conflicts of interest for Justice Thomas, who nevertheless would not recuse himself on cases she helped bring to the Supreme Court.

Ginni Thomas was the founder and leader of Liberty Central, a political nonprofit “dedicated to opposing what she characterizes as the leftist ‘tyranny’ of President Obama and Democrats in Congress.” The group was funded by Harlan Crow, frequent patron of the Thomas’ projects and causes and a financial supporter of right-wing campaigns such as the “swift boat” attacks on then-presidential candidate John Kerry and the advertising push to confirm President George W. Bush’s Supreme Court nominees. Crow also serves on the board of the American Enterprise Institute, whose Edward Blum brought the two most recent attacks on the Voting Rights Act and affirmative action before the Supreme Court. Justice Thomas favored Blum’s positions against progressive precedent on both civil rights issues.

Ginni Thomas’ direction of Liberty Central was heavily criticized in the run-up to the Supreme Court’s decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act because Justice Thomas “was planning to rule on the healthcare law when his wife, a conservative lobbyist, has made so much money challenging the law.” As U.S. News & World Report explained, this paid activism continued even after Ginni Thomas stepped down from Liberty Central to form a separate lobbying firm, Liberty Consulting…

Ginni Thomas was a central character in Groundswell, a right wing lobbying group which gathered grassroots conservatives, Breitbart News, and professional fringe activists together under the auspices of gadfly institute Judicial Watch in 2013. Groundswell produced and directed the biggest political nothingburgers of the last three years, including the Benghazi Select Committee, the contrived IRS ‘targeting scandal,’ and the legislation and talking points that Republican lawmakers had ready to hand at the very moment the ‘baby parts for cash’ hoax energized the conservative witch hunt against Planned Parenthood.

The case argued today, Voisine v. United States, involves two men convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence who lost their right to own guns under the 1996 Lautenberg Amendment of the Gun Control Act. Lawyers for the petitioners say that their clients’ crimes should not count under the law because they were unplanned, impulsive acts.

By that logic, unless a perpetrator living in a state were domestic violence is treated as a misdemeanor schedules a smart phone reminder to commit violence against their spouse, they ought to be able to keep their guns.

Even though the gun rights question is actually peripheral to the case, Thomas, who boasts a long track record of creating gun rights where they had not previously existed, pressed the assistant solicitor general to defend the Lautenberg Amendment.

“Can you give me another area [of law] where a misdemeanor violation suspends a constitutional right?” Thomas asked [Ilana] Eisenstein, who was arguing that a federal ban on gun ownership for people who are convicted of low-level domestic violence offenses at the state level should apply if the offense was committed “recklessly.”

[…] “Did the defendant use a weapon?” Thomas asked, appearing to worry whether suspending someone’s right to own a gun indefinitely when the offense “is not directly related” to the suspension violates the Constitution.

Studies confirm the obvious point that abusers with guns are more likely to shoot their partners. Nor is it safer for women who own guns themselves; merely having a gun in her home means a woman is far more likely to die at the hands of an abuser. One study found that more than 70 percent of women at a shelter for battered spouses had been threatened or assaulted with a firearm by their intimate partner. Clearly, letting violent people keep their guns is a bad idea.

But data doesn’t drive politics in America, and conservative politicians have undermined protective laws in some states out of ideological opposition to gun control. The National Rifle Association has succeeded in protecting the gun rights of some people who are faced with restraining orders, for example.

Thomas was elevated to the Supreme Court despite testimony from former co-worker Anita Hill that her colleague had engaged in sexual harassment. The contentious confirmation hearings sparked a nationwide conversation about sexual harassment in the workplace. Perhaps the experience explains why Thomas consistently makes decisions to harm women, especially when it comes to reproductive rights and contraception access.

  • muselet

    Clarence Thomas is terribly concerned about the gun rights of people convicted of violent crimes, far less so about the safety of those people’s victims.

    That says a great deal about his character, none of it good.

    –alopecia