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This Court Seat Could Affect Our Health and Safety for Decades to Come

The pandemic has made obvious how little our current administration cares about the health and safety of Americans. 

Donald Trump downplayed the seriousness of COVID-19 in its early stages, exacerbating the suffering and heartache of untold numbers of Americans. It came as no surprise to us that Trump would put corporate greed above the will and well-being of the people. He did it after Parkland, El Paso, and Dayton. 

Now he’s trying to do it again—attempting to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat mere weeks before the election with 48-year-old circuit court judge Amy Coney Barrett, just as the official US death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 200,000

Amid a Deadly Pandemic, a Push to Fill a Seat

Americans want relief from the pandemic that has upended life as we know it. Instead of relief, in August Trump and the RNC delivered a convention that treated the pandemic as an obstacle that Trump had singlehandedly overcome. Now, they offer us a contentious fight over the seat left vacant by Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing. 

Trump is incapable of or uninterested in listening to the will of the people, most of whom say the winner of November’s presidential election should pick the next Supreme Court justice. 

Most Americans also disapprove of Trump’s handling of the pandemic, yet the president recently rated his own performance an A+. There’s a shocking disconnect here, an ever-widening chasm in the way that Trump perceives himself and the way others perceive him, that might be funny if the repercussions weren’t so deadly. 

Unemployment rates have skyrocketed, as have firearm purchases and calls to crisis hotlines. After months of outcry for police reform following the killing of George Floyd, the Senate has failed to take action. Instead, it’s attempting to ram through an extremist justice just weeks before the election—despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s refusal in 2016 to hold a hearing for Judge Merrick Garland in March of an election year. 

Trump’s Aggressive Moves to Push Courts Further and Further Right

The Supreme Court gets most of the attention, but we’ve spent the last three and a half years tracking Trump’s record on lower court judges, and there’s a lot to be concerned about. This summer, we released a report highlighting how prolific Trump and McConnell have been in nominating and confirming judges, and how many of these judges hold extremist views on gun safety. 

We’re already seeing dangerous consequences from these picks, consequences that could have ripple effects for years to come. In August, a Trump-appointed judge in the Ninth Circuit ruled that California’s large-capacity magazine ban is unconstitutional, making the Ninth Circuit the first appellate court in the country to strike down a law like this. Large-capacity magazines have been used in all ten of the deadliest mass shootings in the past ten years. 

The gun safety movement won a few victories at the Supreme Court this year by the skin of our teeth. In April, the Court rightly dismissed the first major Second Amendment case it had taken up in over a decade as moot, and in June, the Court declined to hear any of the other gun safety cases on its docket. 

Trump-appointed Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh joined dissents disagreeing with these decisions. There’s little question how a Supreme Court with an additional far-right-leaning judge would rule on gun safety—especially given that Mitch McConnell has said he could not “imagine” a Republican majority Senate confirming a Supreme Court nominee not endorsed by the NRA. 

The gun safety issue is just one example of the havoc that an extremist 6–3 court could wreak on the health and safety of Americans for decades to come. On November 10, exactly one week after the election, the Court is set to hear a case on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  If the ACA is repealed, 20 million Americans could lose their healthcare, and the healthcare of millions more with pre-existing conditions would be jeopardized. 

What Can We Do? 

In 2016, the election came down to fewer than 80,000 votes, or 0.06% of the vote. We can’t let that happen again. 

Voter suppression is real and pernicious, and organizations like Fair Fight are doing the important work of chipping away at disenfranchisement. It’s also critical that voters feel safe going to the polls, which is why we released a resource intended to educate elected officials and poll workers about the laws governing the brandishing of firearms and using guns to harass and intimidate in every state. 

We have to vote like our lives depend on it—because they do. For too long, the health and safety of all Americans rested on the shoulders of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman appointed to the Supreme Court, who once said that “women belong in all places where decisions are being made.”

Now it’s our turn to pick up the mantle of health and safety. Two men—Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell—are trying to decide what the future of our country looks like, and these men  care more about preserving their own power than the lives of people who are suffering under the triple threat of COVID-19, systemic racism, and gun violence. 

We must make our voices heard in November. As Joe Biden says often, this is a fight for the soul of our democracy. We can’t sit this one out.

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ELECTIONS

GUN SAFETY PRESIDENT

Joe Biden has made gun safety a priority for decades—and has proven he isn’t afraid to take on the NRA. We need a president who will lead on this issue, not one bought and paid for by the gun lobby. Joe Biden is our pick for Gun Safety President this November. 

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