In a scathing letter to the clerk of the U.S. Supreme Court, signed by every member of the U.S. Senate’s Republican Majority, five Senate Democrats were blasted for filing an amicus brief with the high court that essentially threatened to pack the court if it does not dismiss a case challenging an extremist New York City gun control ordinance, as reported by the Washington Post.
In their brief, the five Democrats—Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Mazie Hirono (HI), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Dick Durbin (IL) and Richard Blumenthal (CT)—stated, “The Supreme Court is not well. And the people know it. Perhaps the Court can heal itself before the public demands it be ‘restructured in order to reduce the influence of politics.’ Particularly on the urgent issue of gun control, a nation desperately needs it to heal.”
That passage infuriated Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who wrote, “The implication is as plain as day: Dismiss this case, or we’ll pack the court.”
McConnell’s letter subsequently observed, “Democrats in Congress, and on the presidential campaign trail, have peddled plans to pack this Court with more justices in order to further their radical legislative agenda.”
The case, known as New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. City of New York, challenges the city’s restrictive handgun policy that prohibited travel outside the city with a legally-registered handgun. The law was so extreme that in an attempt to nullify the case, city officials amended it. But the high court accepted the case for review earlier this year.
There is much at stake.
The Second Amendment Foundation, which also has submitted an amicus brief in the case, weighed in Friday. According to SAF’s Alan Gottlieb, “Evidently, the five senators signing onto this brief are terrified that the nation’s high court is about to examine the extreme nature of local gun control laws and their constitutionality under the Second Amendment.”
He warned that if the Court dismisses the case as the Whitehouse Five are demanding, “there is nothing to prevent New York City from re-enacting the statute. The gun prohibition lobby is rightly concerned that a ruling against New York City could also apply to other states and cities’ infringements on Second Amendment rights.”
“McConnell and the Senate Republicans have clearly had enough of Democrat demagoguery,” Gottlieb added in a prepared statement. “Their amicus brief is further evidence that they would happily erase the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights, but they want the Supreme Court to do that, rather than risk the political fallout. Sen. McConnell and the Senate Majority are telling them ‘No.’”
Writing at The Conversation, Austin Sarat at Amherst College noted that the Whitehouse brief “offered a broad and unprecedented indictment of the court’s conservative majority” that focused briefly on the confirmation of Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
McConnell’s letter blistered the Democrats for their threat.
“It’s one thing for politicians to peddle these ideas in Tweets or on the stump,” he said. “But the Democrats’ amicus brief demonstrates that their court-packing plans are more than mere pandering. They are a direct, immediate threat to the independence of the judiciary and the rights of all Americans.”
“The (NYSR&PA) has asked this Court to consider the constitutionality of a law that it believes infringes on the fundamental constitutional right of ordinary New Yorkers,” the letter continues. “Democrats have responded by threatening to pack the Court if it decides in favor of the Association. Americans cannot trust that their constitutional rights are secure if they know that Democrats will try to browbeat this Court into ruling against those rights.”
SAF’s Gottlieb said the high court should reject the Whitehouse brief rather than the case.
“We’re proud of Sen. McConnell and his colleagues,” Gottlieb stated. “We have never before seen such an outrageous effort by anti-gun extremists on Capitol Hill to subvert the constitutional process. I was personally appalled by the brief. Just when you think opponents of the Second Amendment can’t sink any lower, they surprise you.”