Wednesday’s announcement by Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy that he will retire July 31 has sent liberals into panic mode, because the stage is now set for President Donald Trump to cement his legacy by reshaping the high court, possibly for decades.
Kennedy has provided a “swing” vote for a generation, going with the majority in two landmark Second Amendment cases that left gun prohibitionists fuming.
The president and Capitol Hill Republicans have made it clear they will move fast to fill Kennedy’s vacancy before the November elections. That is likely to ignite an intense political battle, especially if the nominee is another conservative who sticks close to the Constitution, rather than trying to rewrite it.
“For a member of the legal profession, it is the highest of honors to serve on this Court. Please permit me by this letter to express my profound gratitude for having had the privilege to seek in each case how best to know, interpret and defend the Constitution and the laws that must always conform to its mandates and promises.”—Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, in a letter to President Donald Trump
According to the Daily Caller, “liberal activists and journalists are melting down.” CNBC reported that Kennedy’s departure “gives Trump the chance to further cement the court’s conservative bent.”
But for Second Amendment advocates, that might not be a bad thing, considering that retired Justice John Paul Stevens earlier this year suggested that the Second Amendment should be repealed. Gun owners do not want someone who shares that view to occupy a seat on the nation’s highest court.
“Gun owners must make sure that President Trump and the U. S. Senate nominate and confirm a Supreme Court Judge that truly respects the Second Amendment,” said Alan Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation. “The gun prohibitionists will do everything in their power to derail a pro-gun rights nominee.”
Appointed by the late President Ronald Reagan 30 years ago, Kennedy has been perhaps the most influential member of the court because he could go either way on an issue. During his tenure, he voted on a variety of issues including gun rights, affirmative action, abortion, capital punishment, gay rights, and this week on the president’s travel ban and curbing the power of public employee unions.
The fight looming over his replacement could be politically ugly. For decades, liberals have enjoyed either a tilted or balanced court, but if Trump is able to get confirmation of another conservative, it will have a profound impact on the liberal agenda. It might open the door for high court review of restrictive concealed carry laws, and whether firearms such as the AR-15 modern sporting rifle are protected by the Second Amendment.
Senate liberals including anti-gun Democrats Charles Schumer, Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris will resist the appointment of another pro-Second Amendment justice. Last year’s appointment of Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacancy left by the death of Antonin Scalia left the court essentially back in a state of balance. That could be about to change dramatically.