The political divide over gun policy yawned Monday night as President Donald Trump announced his pick to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the nation’s high court.
In a ceremony at the White House, Trump introduced Judge Brett Kavanaugh, currently on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the key D.C. Circuit, as his nomination to fill the seat opened on the nine-justice panel with Kennedy’s planned retirement. Described as a “brilliant jurist with impeccable legal credentials” by the White House, since his confirmation to the federal bench in 2006 Kavanaugh has penned more than 300 decisions, 11 of which have been upheld by the Supreme Court. A Yale Law graduate, he served as on the Office of Independent Counsel under Ken Starr investigating President Clinton’s administration and later as a staffer to President George W. Bush.
But it was the subject of Kavanaugh’s record of interpretation of the Second Amendment that drew quick attention. In 2011, he dissented from the majority in the D.C. Circuit’s ruling on Heller II, which challenged the city’s prohibition on “assault weapons,” saying in part, “In my judgment, both D.C.’s ban on semi-automatic rifles and its gun registration requirement are unconstitutional under Heller.” The jurist went on to say that the guns were in common use and are protected under the Constitution.
Pro-gun groups, to include the National Rifle Association, National Shooting Sports Foundation, and Second Amendment Foundation, approved of Trump’s pick.
“Judge Kavanaugh has demonstrated his clear belief that the Constitution should be applied as the Framers intended,” said Chris Cox, head of the NRA’s lobbying arm, in a strong endorsement of the nominee. “To that end, he has supported the fundamental, individual right to self-defense embraced by Justice Scalia in the historic Heller decision.”
Alan Gottlieb, SAF’s executive vice president, said his group was encouraged by the nomination, “because by adding Judge Kavanaugh, we might see the high court become more willing to accept and rule on important Second Amendment issues, such as right-to-carry.”
On the opposite side of the canyon, national gun control organizations of all stripes, ranging from Everytown to Giffords slammed the pick, with the Brady Campaign’s co-president Avery Gardiner saying, “This is a judge who sees no difference between assault weapons and handguns, and who has stated that there is no judicial role when it comes to regulating gun ownership.”
In the Senate, with just 51 votes needed to move Kavanaugh’s lifetime appointment through, many Democrats are already vowing a “no” vote on the judge. “There is a fight coming, and I’m ready for it,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn, before taking to social media and declaring the nominee a “Second Amendment radical.”