Trump’s SCTOUS picks Barrett, Kavanaugh, Gorsuch see their first gun case: What to expect

Former President Donald Trump’s three Supreme Court appointees—Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch—will take up their first gun rights case on Wednesday.

As the high court hears a case challenging New York’s gun permit law, gun rights advocates are hoping that the 6-3 conservative majority will side with them and rule that the law is too restrictive, opening up a possibility for more guns on the streets of New York, California and a string of other Eastern states.

Wednesday’s hearing is the first time the Supreme Court is taking up a Second Amendment case since decisions in 2008 and 2010—before Barrett, Kavanaugh and Gorsuch sat on the bench.

Now that Kavanaugh has replaced Justice Anthony Kennedy and Barrett has replaced Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the current court is poised to be even more conservative than it was when it last established a nationwide right to keep a gun at home for self-defense in District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008.

On Wednesday, it will look into the constitutional right in public settings.

Back in 2008, Ginsberg joined the dissent in the Heller case. Kennedy, on the other hand, was credited with asking for “some important changes,” including language that the case “should not be taken to cast doubt” on many existing gun laws, which Justice Antonin Scalia agreed to in order to hold onto his majority.

Associate Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barret and Neil Gorsuch stand during a group photo of the Justices at the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on April 23, 2021. Erin Schaff/Pool/Getty Images

Although it is difficult to determine how the Supreme Court will rule, here’s how Trump’s three SCOTUS nominees have ruled on guns in the past:

Justice Neil Gorsuch

While Gorsuch does not have a clear record as an ardent supporter of gun rights, his nomination to the Supreme Court was praised by the National Rifle Association.

As a 10th Circuit judge, Gorsuch previously declared that “The Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to own firearms and may not be infringed lightly”—a ruling the NRA has pointed to as an “impressive record” for defending gun rights.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh

As a lower court judge, Kavanaugh has written opinions calling for an expansive approach to the Second Amendment.

He is one of the few dissenters of the “two-step analytic framework” that is embraced by most circuits and was used to uphold New York state gun licensure requirements when it was in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Kavanaugh argued in a 2011 dissent that the framework should be abandoned and that “Courts are to assess gun bans and regulations based on text, history, and tradition, not by a balancing test such as strict or intermediate scrutiny.”

It will be unlikely that the court will adopt Kavanaugh’s approach, but it does signal where he may stand on Second Amendment cases.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett

Barrett is perhaps the greatest threat to gun control advocates, who have spoken out against her nomination since last year.

As Scalia’s protégé, Barrett is known to have taken an even more conservative position on the Second Amendment than her mentor.

While she was a 7th Circuit judge, Barrett concluded that only people convicted of dangerous felonies should lose their right to keep and bear arms—further shrinking the rule in Heller—and that a blanket ban would violate the Second Amendment.

In his book, Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America, UCLA law professor Adam Winkler noted that Barrett’s dissent in the 2019 case “really shows that she has a very expansive view of gun rights, likely one even broader than Justice Antonin Scalia.”

The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments at 10 a.m. on Wednesday.

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