Last week, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito told a group of attorneys that individual rights were at increased risk of government encroachment—including the right to keep and bear arms.
In the wake of an apparent White House victory for gun grabbers, and Joe Biden promising executive action on guns, many gun owners are left wondering how far Joe Biden and his promised gun-control czar, Beto “Hell yes we’re going to take your AR-15” O’Rourke will go—and how much opposition will come from the U.S. Supreme Court.
In a video address to the Federalist Society, Justice Alito offered a preview.
“The pandemic has resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty,” Alito said.
“Every year, administrative agencies acting under broad delegations of authority churn out huge volumes of regulations that dwarfs the statutes enacted by the people’s elected representatives.”
“[W]henever fundamental rights are restricted, the Supreme Court and other courts cannot close their eyes.”
Alito warned that freedom of speech was in danger, and that “we need to do whatever we can to prevent it from becoming a second-tier constitutional right.”
“Of course, the ultimate second tier constitutional right in the minds of some is the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms,” Alito said, voicing frustration that since 2010’s Supreme Court ruling in McDonald v. Chicago, the Court has denied hearing any Second Amendment challenge to a firearm restriction until this year’s New York State Rifle & Pistol Association case, which the Court ultimately failed to rule on.
“[New York City] makes it very inconvenient for a law-abiding resident to get a gun in the home for self-defense,” Alito said. “But the Second Amendment protects that right. And if a person is going to have a gun in the home, there’s broad agreement that the gun owner should know how to handle it safely. And that the best way to acquire and maintain that skill is to go to a range every now and then.”
The city’s law prevented transporting a firearm to any shooting range outside the city. Once warned their senseless infringements could tee up a huge Second Amendment victory, the Big Apple quickly amended the law to short-circuit the case.
After this, but while the case was still being considered by the Supreme Court, a brief from five U.S. Democratic senators made the audacious claim, “The Supreme Court is not well.” That was followed by what some considered a thinly-veiled threat: “Perhaps the Court can heal itself before the public demands it be ‘restructured in order to reduce the influence of politics.’” Many construed this to be a call by these senators to engage in “court packing” if the Court does not rule in support of gun control laws—a threat that was renewed by many on the left after President Trump’s appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
Alito said the brief provided a foretaste of conflicts to come, calling it “extraordinary” and “an affront to the Constitution and the rule of law.”
“I’m not suggesting that the court’s decision was influenced by the senators’ threat,” Alito said. “But I am concerned that the outcome might be viewed that way by the senators and others with thoughts of bullying the court. … [I]t is therefore wrong for anybody, including members of Congress, to try to influence our decisions by anything other than legal argumentation.”
“Judges dedicated to the rule of law have a clear duty,” Alito said. “They cannot compromise principle or rationalize any departure from what they are obligated to do. And I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not do that in the years ahead.”
Alito has long been a proponent of the constitutional right to self-defense, joining the prevailing side in the landmark D.C. v. Heller case, authoring the 2010 McDonald opinion (which confirmed that states and localities are, like the federal government, bound by the Second Amendment), and dissenting from the Court’s decision that the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association case was moot, due to the recent changes to the law being challenged.
In a predictable response to Alito’s speech, the corporate media seethed. The New York Times called it “unusually political.” NBC said it was a “forceful entry” into “openly joining the culture war” that showed “how political the court can get.” USA Today stuck with “controversial,” while MSNBC called it “politically charged.” Even the National Law Journal called it “caustic” and “unscrupulously biased.”
Of course, it was none of these things. The speech was sobering but tempered, a nonpartisan, but unvarnished, stand taken against tyranny of the judiciary or any other government institution, and against the pretentions of politicians, such as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who warned that orginalist justices would “pay a price.”
For gun owners, the speech also gives a rare glimpse into the inner workings of Court deliberations, a preview of future decisions, and a reassurance that Justice Alito clearly understands the Second Amendment protects an individual right. With such a strong endorsement of the Second Amendment, no wonder the establishment media and gun grabbers are frightened.
As Alito fittingly concluded: “[I]n the end, there is only so much that the judiciary can do to preserve our Constitution, and the liberty it was adopted to protect. As [judge] Learned Hand famously wrote, ‘Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women. When it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can do much to help it.’
“For all Americans, standing up for our Constitution and our freedom is work that lies ahead,” said Alito.
(David Burnett is an ICU nurse based in Detroit, Michigan. He holds degrees in business, nursing, and law, and is a frequent contributor to America’s First Freedom.)