Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh's gun views are clear

Legal Compliance

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh says he recognizes that gun, drug and gang violence "has plagued all of us." Still, he believes the Constitution limits how far government can go to restrict gun use to prevent crime.

As a federal appeals court judge, Kavanaugh made it clear in a 2011 dissent that he thinks Americans can keep most guns, even the AR-15 rifles used in some of the deadliest mass shootings.

Kavanaugh's nomination by President Donald Trump has delighted Second Amendment advocates. Gun law supporters worry that his ascendancy to America's highest court would make it harder to curb the proliferation of guns. Kavanaugh has the support of the National Rifle Association, which posted a photograph of Kavanaugh and Trump across the top of its website.

The Supreme Court has basically stayed away from major guns cases since its rulings in 2008 and 2010 declared a right to have a gun, at least in the home for the purpose of self-defense.

Gun rights advocates believe Kavanaugh interprets the Second Amendment right to bear arms more broadly than does Anthony Kennedy, the justice he would replace. As a first step, some legal experts expect Kavanaugh would be more likely to vote for the court to hear a case that could expand the right to gun ownership or curtail a gun control law.

Kavanaugh would be a "big improvement" over Kennedy, said Erich Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America. Kennedy sided with the majority in rulings in 2008 and 2010 overturning bans on handgun possession in the District of Columbia and Chicago, respectively, but some gun rights proponents believe he was a moderating influence.

"Kennedy tended to be all over the map" on the Second Amendment, Pratt said.

Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, the Arizona Democrat who was gravely wounded in a 2011 shooting at a constituent gathering, said in a written statement that Kavanaugh's "dangerous views on the Second Amendment are far outside the mainstream of even conservative thought."

She predicted that Kavanaugh would back the gun lobby's agenda, "putting corporate interests before public safety."

In his 2011 dissent in a case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Kavanaugh argued that the district's ban on semi-automatic rifles and its gun registration requirement were unconstitutional.

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