Democrats Playing Hardball with Right-Wing Justices on Guns

Ladd Everitt
5 min readOct 17, 2019

In January, the Supreme Court accepted its first gun case in nearly a decade, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. New York City. The petitioner, NYSRPA, is the state affiliate of the National Rifle Association. NYSRPA is challenging a gun ordinance that prohibits licensees from transporting their handguns outside NYC limits. The NRA is hoping to accomplish more than striking down a minor municipal gun law, however. With perjurer and accused sex offender Brett Kavanaugh installed on the Court, the NRA seeks an expansive reading of the Second Amendment that enshrines public carry (concealed and/or open) as a constitutional right.

To the credit of NYC officials, they recognized the threat the case poses to gun control laws nationwide and acted to preempt a ruling. In June, the city repealed its ordinance, allowing licensed NYC gun owners to take their pistols to a home, business or shooting range outside city limits.* As the stated grievance of the plaintiffs had been remedied, city officials then asked the Supreme Court to declare NYSRPA v. NYC moot.

Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island spearheaded a remarkable letter to the Supreme Court warning against the further weakening of America’s gun laws.

While the Court deliberates on what to do with the case, five Democratic Senators have taken an extraordinary step. On August 12, Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, Kirstin Gillibrand, Mazie Hirono, Richard Blumenthal and Dick Durbin filed an amicus brief in support of NYC’s recommendation to moot the case. The 18-page document serves as a warning to the Supreme Court’s five right-wing Justices: refrain from additional rulings that facilitate gun carnage or you will face real political consequences.

The Democrats’ brief opens with a reminder that courts are not legislatures. Mootness is an important “apolitical limitation on judicial power” to prevent courts from undertaking political “projects,” the Democrats explain:

Petitioners and their allies have made perfectly clear that they seek a partner in a “project” to expand the Second Amendment and thwart gun safety regulations. Particularly in an environment where a growing majority of Americans believes this Court is “motivated mainly by politics,” rather than by adherence to the law, the Court should resist petitioners’ invitation. Petitioners’ effort did not emerge from a vacuum. The lead…

Ladd Everitt

Ladd Everitt is a comms pro & gun control expert who’s worked for Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, George Takei's One Pulse for America, and Million Mom March.