The 2016 elections seem like an eternity ago, to me, considering all that has happened since Donald Trump was elected president. And while much has changed, some constants remain as the final stages of the 2020 elections loom ahead. As was the case in 2016, one of the critical considerations for voting gun owners is the federal judiciary.
Four years ago, candidate Trump broke new campaign ground when he released his short list of potential nominees for the Supreme Court of the United States. It was that list of reasoned, accomplished jurists—ones who had shown they respected the original intent of the authors of our Constitution and Bill of Rights—that solidified the support for Trump among countless voters.
That support has paid tangible dividends.
In June, President Trump hit an amazing milestone, when his 200th judicial nominee was confirmed. He not only filled every federal circuit court vacancy, but set a new mark for the number of appellate court appointments for any president at the same stage of his presidency.
To give you a better perspective of the rate at which President Trump is working to reshape the federal judiciary, as I write this, he is approaching the number of circuit court appointments made by President Obama over his TWO terms.
That’s truly impressive, but in reality, it’s merely a good start. It is unrealistic to expect a complete overhaul of the federal courts in one four-year term, even with Trump—aided by the Mitch McConnell-led U.S. Senate—working at a record-setting pace.
And make no mistake, an overhaul is long overdue.
Activist judges, who reject the true meaning of our nation’s founding documents, have been working for decades to re-interpret the Constitution and Bill of Rights to fit their worldview. That problem has manifested in countless court rulings that reject the Second Amendment and the individual rights it was intended to protect.
Even after the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment protects an individual right more than a decade ago in the landmark D.C. v. Heller case, then ruled those protections applied throughout the country in McDonald v. City of Chicago, re-interpreting the Second Amendment remains a problem. Lower court judges who don’t accept the individual right to arms jurisprudence seem to simply ignore those rulings.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has still yet to intervene to correct these lower court errors. This year, there were 11 cases before the nation’s highest court that could have helped to better define what, exactly, the court deems is protected under the Second Amendment. Eleven opportunities to refine and strengthen the Heller ruling, and 11 opportunities squandered when the court chose to not take up any of the cases.
President Trump’s appointments to the court appear to be as frustrated by this inaction as most Second Amendment supporters. Both Justices Neal Gorsuch and Bret Kavanaugh have signed on to dissents over the Court’s rejection of firearm-related cases.
When the Court determined a case challenging New York City’s restrictive handgun-licensing scheme was moot because the city had made some changes to it, Gorsuch signed on to a dissent with Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas that, among other things, stated the city had merely manipulated the process by making those changes. “By incorrectly dismissing this case as moot, the Court permits our docket to be manipulated in a way that should not be countenanced,” they wrote.
After rejecting a case challenging the New Jersey carry permit law—a permit that is rarely issued because most law-abiding gun owners simply cannot satisfy its “justifiable need” standard to the satisfaction of the issuing authority—Justices Thomas and Kavanaugh dissented, lamenting the Supreme Court’s “decade-long failure to protect the Second Amendment.”
Reversing the tide of bad gun-rights jurisprudence takes time. Federal courts didn’t become hostile to the Second Amendment overnight, and we aren’t going to be able to correct their direction in a single term. Fortunately, we once again have an opportunity to ensure that the course of our federal courts move in the direction of freedom.
President Trump has made great strides in improving the federal judiciary, but his work is far from done. Another four years of judicial appointments would likely ensure the majority of federal courts, including the Supreme Court, will return to making rulings that afford the right to keep and bear arms the respect it deserves.
All voters, regardless of party, need to keep this in mind as they head to the polls this November. There is only one choice. The fate of our Second Amendment hangs in the balance.