Washington – The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear a gun case for the first time in nearly 10 years has provoked a blistering response from Sen. Richard Blumenthal and other Senate Democrats.
Led by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Blumenthal and other Senate Judiciary Committee members, Sens. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Richard Durbin, D-Ill, and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., signed an incendiary amicus, or “friend of the court,” brief demanding the court dismiss the gun case.
The amicus also accused the court’s conservative majority of being influenced by the National Rifle Association and the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group.
“The Supreme Court is not well. And the people know it,” the brief concludes. “Perhaps the Court can heal itself before the public demands it be ‘restructured in order to reduce the influence of politics.’”
The brief notes a Quinnipiac University poll that found 55 percent of Americans surveyed believe the Supreme Court is “motivated mainly by politics.”
At the heart of the controversy is the Supreme Court’s decision to hear a case involving New York City’s tough restrictions on how gun owners transport their weapons. New York City rescinded the restrictions, which would have prohibited licensed gun owners from taking their guns to second homes and shooting ranges outside the city, to avoid scrutiny by the Supreme Court.
Gun rights advocates who have sued over the restrictions say city officials should not be allowed to dispense of the case and the constitutional questions it raises by making last-minute changes.
Blumenthal, however, said the case is “moot” and that he and his Democratic colleagues who filed the amicus brief are warning the Supreme Court to avoid “raising a sign to the gun lobby that the Supreme Court is open for business to strike down commonsense gun laws.”
The amicus brief argues that New York’s rescinding of restrictions have given the plaintiffs all they seek, and the high court should not become a “partner in a ‘project’ to expand the Second Amendment and thwart gun-safety regulations.”
The amicus brief also denounces the NRA’s endorsement of the most recent conservative justice to be seated on the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, the role of Federalist Society officials in promoting judicial candidates, and the “dark money” campaigns to promote Kavanaugh and President Donald Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.
Dark money refers to political spending by nonprofit organizations like the NRA that are not required to disclose their donors.
The amicus said the “lead petitioner’s parent organization, the National Rifle Association (NRA), promoted the confirmation (and perhaps selection) of nominees to this Court who, it believed, would “break the tie” in Second Amendment cases.”
“(The brief) shows very accurately how dark money and the political agenda of the Republican right wing has shaped the membership of the court to reflect the Federalist Society’s and other hard-right agendas and how this may damage the legitimacy of the court,” Blumenthal said.
The Democratic senators’ brief has provoked criticism from conservatives who called it malicious and an attempt to intimidate the high court.
A Wall Street Journal editorial called the filing an “enemy of the court” brief and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, tweeted “Extremely concerning to see Senate Democrats threaten federal judges like this.”
Blumenthal said he and his colleagues did not issue a threat, but instead are giving the court some “cautionary advice.”
“All we are saying to the court is ‘be careful because we are watching,” he said.