Gun Rights Groups Express Support for Barrett as Supreme Court Nominee

September 28, 2020 Updated: September 28, 2020

Several gun rights organizations have lauded President Donald Trump’s choice of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacancy in the Supreme Court while urging the Senate to act swiftly to confirm her.

Gun owners and advocates are seeing Barrett’s nomination as hope for a major Supreme Court ruling to clarify the application of the Second Amendment after the court dismissed a New York case on the issue and declined to review several others this term.

In April, the justices in a 6–3 vote dismissed a dispute challenging New York City’s gun transportation restrictions because they ruled the controversy was no longer live after the city repealed those rules.

The justices also declined to hear a series of new cases that presented the court an opportunity to clarify the application of the Second Amendment. This prompted Justice Clarence Thomas, who was joined by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, to express frustration at his fellow justices for “prolonging our decade-long failure to protect the Second Amendment.”

The National Rifle Association (NRA), the nation’s largest Second Amendment advocacy group, said in a statement that it fully supports Trump’s nominee, citing Barrett’s record.

“Judge Barrett’s record demonstrates a steadfast commitment to the fundamental rights enshrined in our Constitution. With this nomination, President Trump continues his record of nominating qualified, fair-minded federal judges who respect the Bill of Rights—including the Second Amendment—to our nation’s highest court,” the NRA wrote.

Similarly, the Virginia-based Gun Owners of America also expressed hope over the protection of the Second Amendment through Barrett’s nomination.

“From a Second Amendment perspective, Judge Amy Coney Barrett appears to be a strong choice. She has indicated a willingness to examine and apply the Second Amendment as written, by looking at its text and using history as a guide, instead of engaging in the judge-empowering interest balancing that has run rampant in the lower courts,” the group wrote in a statement.

“Gun owners will relish seeing a new addition to the Supreme Court who is ready to hold lower courts accountable for failing to uphold the Constitution and for refusing to follow the Heller and McDonald precedents,” they added, referring to two major gun rights cases decided in the last two decades.

In the 2008 landmark decision District of Columbia v. Heller (pdf), the Supreme Court protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms for traditionally lawful purposes such as self-defense. Meanwhile, in the 2010 McDonald v. Chicago (pdf) case, the justices ruled that that right is enforceable at the state level as well.

The National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR) is calling on the Senate to immediately confirm Barrett, saying that they believe she is an “excellent Justice” who would “defend our gun rights from the constant attacks by the far left.”

“During her tenure as a lawyer and Appellate Court Judge, Amy Coney Barrett has displayed the tenacity it will take to defend our most sacred liberties at the highest level,” NAGR President Dudley Brown said in a statement.

“There is no need to wait around until after the election. The Senate Judiciary Committee should make quick work of moving Judge Barrett’s nomination to the floor, and any Senator who respects the Constitution and our gun rights should vote yes to confirm Judge Barrett without reservation,” he added.

Barrett indicated that she is supportive of expansive gun rights in a dissent she authored in 2019. The case, Kanter v. Barr, challenged a federal law that took gun rights away from nonviolent felons. A businessman who had pleaded guilty to mail fraud argued that the law violated his Second Amendment right to bear arms.

The 2–1 majority, both appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan, said the federal law and a similar Wisconsin one were constitutional.

In her dissent, Barrett said that since the country’s founding, legislatures have taken gun rights away from people who were considered dangerous.

“History is consistent with common sense: it demonstrates that legislatures have the power to prohibit dangerous people from possessing guns,” she wrote. “But that power extends only to people who are dangerous.”

She added that while the federal and state governments have a strong interest in protecting the public from gun violence, they had failed to show that the business owner owning a gun would pose a risk.

“The Second Amendment confers an individual right, intimately connected with the natural right of self-defense, and not limited to civic participation,” she said.

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