Press Release

Giffords Reacts to Justice Kennedy’s Retirement

Justice’s decision to retire could bolster NRA’s growing influence over the federal judiciary and the nation’s highest court

June 27, 2018—United States Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced today that he would retire effective July 31, giving President Trump an opportunity to nominate a replacement justice. Experts from Giffords and the Giffords Law Center issued the following statements in reaction to the news:

Peter Ambler, Executive Director of Giffords:

“In recent months, the Trump Administration sat on its hands while Americans bravely rallied in favor of gun safety laws, proving the Administration still lets the National Rifle Association dictate firearm policy. Even more disturbingly, the NRA has coordinated efforts to influence the President’s lifetime appointments to the federal judiciary–and in some instances, they’ve succeeded, including with Justice Gorsuch, a radical choice the NRA spent $1 million to confirm. Justice Gorsuch has already said he would likely vote to strike down strong concealed carry permitting laws in California, a chilling prospect for public safety. If the NRA wields its clout to ensure that Justice Kennedy’s replacement is also intent on weakening gun laws, it could mean a radical shift on the Court that endangers the gun safety laws lower courts have nearly all upheld as consistent with the Second Amendment.”

Robyn Thomas, Executive Director of the Giffords Law Center

“We have a responsibility to insist on a Supreme Court nominee who won’t be ideological, but will follow the growing judicial consensus that gun safety laws are constitutional and effective. In the next few months and years, the Supreme Court may have the opportunity to rule on important state laws like strong concealed carry permitting standards, minimum age laws, and assault weapon restrictions. As things stand today, there isn’t a partisan divide over these policies: judges appointed by both Republicans and Democrats have upheld them in court. But Justice Kennedy’s retirement raises grave concerns that the President will once again answer the NRA’s call to appoint a justice that will depart from the mainstream by striking down these and many other gun safety laws upheld by lower-court judges and supported by the public.”

Since District of Columbia v. Heller was decided by the Supreme Court ten years ago this month, the lower courts have overwhelmingly upheld reasonable gun safety laws that fall short of the handgun ban Heller invalidated. The United States Supreme Court has not granted review in a significant Second Amendment case since Heller and its companion case, McDonald — they have denied review in more than 80 cases. Justice Kennedy’s retirement could mean the Supreme Court intervenes more in these lower-court cases and overturns decisions that have protected public safety consistently with the Heller ruling.

In the near future, the Supreme Court may have the opportunity to rule on a variety of Second Amendment issues that are pending in the lower courts. For example, a series of NRA-backed lawsuits was filed this spring to challenge strong concealed carry permitting laws in New Jersey, Maryland, and New York. The NRA has also filed or supported a number of suits challenging critical gun safety measures adopted after the Parkland massacre.