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America's gun problem could worsen under US supreme court nominee Kavanaugh

  • Adam Bensaid
  • 21 Sep 2018

The US National Rifle Association's hopes are on Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Through him, they aim to change the constitution.

( Getty Images )

This week alone, three mass shootings took place in the US. 

A mass shooting in Wisconsin on Wednesday followed by another mass shooting in Maryland on Thursday, September 20 and yet another today in New York.

The debate around guns in the US never seems to go away and it could be about to get a lot more contentious and, potentially, deadlier.

The nominee 

Brett  Kavanaugh's nomination by President Donald Trump, on July 10, was welcomed by Second Amendment advocates. 

On the other hand, anti-gun campaigners worry that Kavanaugh being assigned to America's highest court, and the final word on contested matters, will empower those that seek greater gun proliferation.

Kavanaugh's nomination has the support of the National Rifle Association, which posted a photograph of him and Trump on their website. 

The Supreme Court has avoided major gun cases since its rulings in 2008 and 2010 which established the right to have a gun in the home for self-defence.

Chris W. Cox, NRA's top lobbyist has gone on the record stating, “The NRA strongly supports Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court because he will protect our constitutional right to keep and bear arms,” while calling on voters to “urge their senators to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.”

The swing vote

Brett Kavanaugh, is set to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy in the Supreme Court, and is an established conservative on gun rights, and has a controversial interpretation of how the the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle fits into the debate. The AR-15 was the gun used in the tragic Sandy Hook School shootings of 2012, and more recently in the Parkland, Florida shootings.

Kavanaugh’s nomination is expected to create a conservative-majority in the Supreme Court that is likely to reinterpret the Second Amendment of the United States’ constitution to expand gun rights in America. 

The NRA is reportedly spending more than a million dollars for an ad campaign to rally grassroots support for his confirmation. 

The ad explicitly states that Trump chose Kavanaugh to sway the balance between four “liberal” Supreme court justices who "oppose your right to self-defence" and four judges who support it. 

As a first step, some legal experts expect Kavanaugh would be more likely to hear cases that could expand the right to gun ownership or curtail a gun control law.

Only four of the nine Supreme Court justices need to vote in favour of reviewing a case. 

UCLA Professor of Law Adam Winkler notes that Kavanaugh could become the essential fourth voice, as three other judges have already expressed a readiness to take on Second Amendment cases.

In 2011, while Kavanaugh served as a Federal Appeals Court Judge, he expressed dissent in an article over a decision, declaring that he thinks Americans can keep most guns. Kavanaugh was skeptical of the label 'assault weapon' for AR-15s saying "it is the person, not the gun, who determines whether use of the gun is offensive or defensive".  The AR-15 has been used repeatedly to deadly effect in mass shootings. 

Phil Mendelson, Democratic chairman of the D.C. Council, asserts that Kavanaugh's dissent made it clear that "his views on gun control are on the extreme side." 

Mary M. Cheh, a Democrat council member and George Washington University Professor of Constitutional law has also expressed the view that she is "worried about the shift to the right.”

Former Democrat US Representative Gabby Giffords, who was wounded in a 2011 shooting at a constituent gathering, stated that Kavanaugh's "dangerous views on the Second Amendment are far outside the mainstream of even conservative thought." 

She expects Kavanaugh will back the NRA’s agenda, and "put corporate interests before public safety."

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