What you need to know About the Supreme Court Nomination of Judge Kavanaugh and What’s at Stake | Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

What you need to know About the Supreme Court Nomination of Judge Kavanaugh and What’s at Stake

Kelsey Rodgers, Policy and Research Manager

Trump, The NRA, and A Promise Made:

  • The NRA spent over $30 million to elect an extremist, pro-gun President, and after the election, they proclaimed they were “Trump’s strongest ally.” In return, Trump has proudly stood beside the organization throughout his Presidency.
  • Trump is the first sitting President to address the NRA since Ronald Reagan in 1983. At that appearance, he declared to the crowd that their “Second Amendment rights [were] under siege, but they will never ever be under siege as long as I am your president.”
  • At a 2017 speech before the NRA’s lobbying arm, Trump made an important promise. He thanked the crowd for their support during the election and then assured them that he would now “come through for [them].”

A Promise Fulfilled: Trump Nominates Kavanaugh: A Pro-Gun, Pro-Second Amendment Justice:

  • On the same day that Justice Kennedy announces his retirement, Trump tells White House visitors that they must “believe in protecting the entire Constitution, as written, including the right to free speech and the right to keep and bear arms.”
  • This idea of protecting the Constitution “as written” refers to what’s known as an “originalist” view - in other words, interpreting the language as those who wrote and ratified the document.
  • Kavanaugh is a known “originalist,” specifically on the Second Amendment. Justice Scalia was another notable originalist, but his opinion in the landmark 2008 Supreme Court gun decision carved out specific exceptions to ensure that reasonable restrictions to the 2nd Amendment can be upheld.
  • What we know about Kavanaugh suggests that his goal is to broadly expand the scope of the 2nd Amendment, and who can legally exercise that right in America.

Kavanaugh’s History on Guns in the D.C. Circuit:

  • As a judge, Kavanaugh had the opportunity to weigh in on a crucial gun case that ultimately allowed a D.C. ban of semi-automatic rifles and the city’s licensing registration for all guns.
  • Kavanaugh, however, was the only judge to dissent from that decision and expressed that there was no Constitutional difference between semi-automatic handguns and semi-automatic rifles, but as gun safety advocates, we know how inaccurate this is. Other Federal Appeals courts have upheld assault weapons bans, partially based on the idea that assault weapons are unique and not protected under the Supreme Court case of Heller.
  • Kavanaugh’s perspective on semi-automatic rifles - typically known as assault-style or AR-platform guns - sits far outside the mainstream legal opinion. He wrote that “semi-automatic rifles have traditionally not been banned and are in common use today, and are thus protected” by the Second Amendment.
  • Kavanaugh isn’t just extreme on weapons of war, his past rulings also suggest that Kavanaugh may also be an opponent of common sense gun safety regulations. He doesn’t believe there is a role for the judiciary in balancing costs and benefits of gun regulation, showing that he is not likely to take into consideration public safety when deciding if a gun violence prevention law is Constitutional.

Kavanaugh, The Executive Branch, and A Troubling NRA Connection With Russia:

  • Kavanaugh has made statements in the past that a sitting president cannot be indicted.
  • This is particularly concerning given troubling facts that have recently come to light about a Russian national who may have infiltrated the NRA and funneled money from her home country to the Trump campaign via that organization.
  • While the woman in question, Maria Butina, has been indicted by a grand jury for charges of conspiracy and acting as a foreign agent, it remains to be seen who else was involved, and what evidence will come to light that may further implicate Butina, the National Rifle Association, or the President and his campaign team.
  • Because of these outstanding questions, it’s more critical than ever that we maintain an independent judiciary not one that is cultivated with the intention to protect the President and his extremist policy agenda.

We are asking other organizations, their allies, and activists to require a stringent and thorough nomination process in which Kavanaugh must be asked critical questions about exactly where he stands on numerous gun violence prevention issues. Call your Senators to ensure Kavanaugh be asked the below questions during his confirmation hearing.

  1. What do you believe are the limits of the Second Amendment?
  2. Do you believe the Second Amendment gives Americans the right to carry loaded, hidden guns in public?
  3. Do you stand by your previous decision that a ban on assault weapons is unconstitutional?
  4. Do you believe in the legal validity of “gun free” zones?
  5. What cases related to guns do you believe the Supreme Court should take up?
  6. Do you agree with Justice Scalia’s decision in the precedent setting Heller case that says the Second Amendment is “not unlimited” and is “not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose?

Read more about Judge Kavanaugh from Brady’s co-president Avery Gardiner.

Read the Heller report to find out what the Supreme Court has said about the Second Amendment and how gun laws have been interpreted thus far.