By Hannah Shearer, Giffords Law Center Staff Attorney & Second Amendment Litigation Director
Recent mass shootings sparked a grassroots movement of students and voters demanding safer gun laws.
While Americans are right to be frustrated by the gridlock on Capitol Hill, the success stories we’ve seen in states across the country have been nothing short of remarkable. In fact, just since the horrific shooting in Parkland, Florida a few short months ago, we’ve seen the passage of more than 50 gun safety bills in 26 states.
But giving Judge Brett Kavanaugh a seat on the Supreme Court threatens to take it all away.
Kavanaugh’s judicial record reflects a clear willingness to side with the NRA’s irresponsible agenda — placing corporate interests above the safety of our communities. We have every reason to believe Kavanaugh would bring that perspective as a member of our nation’s highest court.
Here are a few reasons why the NRA is so excited about Kavanaugh.
1. Kavanaugh thinks public safety is irrelevant to gun laws.
Firearm lethality and gun violence have rapidly evolved since our nation was founded, but Kavanaugh’s constitutional interpretations have not changed with the times.
In a case known as Heller II, Kavanaugh wrote a dissenting opinion arguing that the courts should only take into account the history and tradition of regulating guns — and not the public’s safety.
That view is at odds with the way the overwhelming majority of courts interpret the Second Amendment. And it ignores the urgent need to pass laws that remove guns from the hands of likely mass shooters and protect victims of domestic violence. In fact, Kavanaugh’s view puts extreme-risk protection order laws and domestic violence restraining order laws that exist in states across the country at risk.
2. Kavanaugh believes assault weapons cannot be restricted.
In his Heller II opinion, Kavanaugh also wrote that assault weapons bans violate the Second Amendment.
His argument sounds a lot like the gun lobby’s: Every type of firearm that is already sold and in common use in America today deserves absolute constitutional protections — no matter how deadly they might be.
Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court would put the strong assault weapon laws that are in place in seven states and Washington, D.C. in danger. Under Kavanaugh’s approach, every law regulating a weapon or accessory that is currently widely available poses a Second Amendment problem, so large-capacity magazine restrictions could be at risk too.
3. Kavanaugh thinks gun registration laws are unconstitutional.
Because most states do not require firearms to be registered, Kavanaugh argued in Heller II that it is unconstitutional for Washington, D.C. to have a mandatory registration law — a law that had been in place in D.C. for over 40 years.
Under Kavanaugh’s dangerous logic, any gun regulation that is not already widespread is unconstitutional, even if it has existed for a long time in one or more states. This logic means Kavanaugh could be hostile to many types of gun regulations that respond to local concerns.
4. Kavanaugh does not support strong concealed carry licensing requirements.
Kavanaugh’s record suggests that he views requirements for people to have a “good reason” to carry hidden, loaded guns in public spaces as unconstitutional.
He voted to block enforcement of Washington, D.C.’s concealed carry law while an appeal proceeded, a significant clue that he considered the law to violate the Constitution.
Both Judge Kavanaugh’s vote and the later D.C. Circuit opinion striking down D.C.’s law are extreme departures from how the overwhelming majority of judges have ruled on this issue.
Judges appointed by presidents from both political parties have upheld similar “good reason” requirements for concealed carry, including those in place in California, Maryland, New York, and New Jersey. In each case, the U.S. Supreme Court denied review, leaving favorable lower-court decisions upholding strong concealed carry permitting laws in place.
Anyone concerned about protecting communities from gun violence should strongly oppose the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
- Read Gabby Giffords’ statement on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination.
- Learn more about Judge Kavanaugh’s record on gun policy.