Second Amendment supporters have been frustrated as various jurisdictions keep devising more ways to infringe on our right to keep and bear arms. But the ordinances that municipalities and states have pushed through have weak foundations, and it could well be that when legal challenges reach the federal courts the anti-gunners will see those legs cut out from under such unconstitutional laws.
President Donald Trump’s two Supreme Court nominees –Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch – received the lion’s share of attention, of course. But more quietly, and perhaps more importantly, Trump and the Senate have been busy putting supporters of the Constitution on the lower federal courts as well. To date, more than 170 Trump nominees have filled vacancies. That equates to about 20 percent of the 862 spots on the U.S. District Courts, U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal and Supreme Court. One result is that several circuit courts have flipped politically, and seven of the 13 circuits now have more judges appointed by Republicans than by Democrats. And that, historically, means Second Amendment rights should be shored up as cases wend their way through the legal system.
One of the early tests involves the city of Pittsburgh, which responded to the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue by passing three restrictive gun laws. The legal battle started pretty soon after the city council passed the bill, pushed by Mayor Bill Peduto. The Allegheny County Common Pleas Court knocked down the ordinances, calling them “void and unenforceable.” Though that ruling was not at the federal level, expect the appeal to get there one day, as Peduto has vowed to appeal it all the way to the Supreme Court.
As Second Amendment supporters know, gun rights are safe only when we have a strong judicial branch staffed by jurists who will keep lawmakers from running amok and trampling our rights. And, because judgeships are lifetime appointments, Trump’s nominees could have an effect on gun-related rulings for years.
That should give the anti-gunners pause. Indeed, PBS reported how much of a concern that was earlier this year. “They worry that the federal courts, especially if Trump wins a second term next year and Republicans hold the Senate, will take such an expansive view of Second Amendment rights that they might overturn strict gun control laws enacted in Democratic-leaning states.” Yep, even California is worried, according to pundits in academia.
As we head into another national election year, Second Amendment supporters must recognize, though, that all those gains can be for naught if we don’t continue to elect people who believe in the Constitution and the freedoms we have long cherished.