U.S. Supreme Court pick could trigger shift on firearms

U.S. Supreme Court pick could trigger shift on firearms

WASHINGTON — With the addition of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court could have a conservative majority to strike down bans on semi-automatic weapons in liberal states and to decree that law-abiding Americans have a right to carry a gun in public. Although the fight over Kavanaugh’s nomination has mostly focused on abortion and health care, President Donald Trump’s second nominee to the court could have a rapid impact on the national debate over gun control — a topic the high court repeatedly has avoided wading into in recent years. The issue highlights a central difference between an earlier generation of legal conservatives, including many Reagan-era appointees, who emphasize judicial restraint, and today’s more activist conservatives who say they are enforcing the original meaning of the Constitution and are willing to use it to block liberal legislation from the states. Kavanaugh’s record puts him in the activist group. In one notable dissent, for example, he argued the Constitution prohibits a state from banning so-called assault weapons. A decade ago, the court, in a 5-4 opinion written by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, ruled that the Second Amendment protected the right of individuals to have a gun for self-defense. The decision struck down a District of Columbia law that prohibited residents from keeping a handgun at home. Two years later, in an opinion by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., the court struck down a similarly strict ban from Chicago. Since then, however, the justices have refused to hear further cases […]

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