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December 5, 2018

Justice Stevens Reminds Us Why Your Votes Matter


By Larry Keane

Thanks to retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, we’re reminded once again that elections do indeed have consequences.

Justice Stevens told the New York Times that of the three biggest “errors” of the U.S. Supreme Court he ranked the landmark Heller decision as the biggest mistake, saying the ruling was “as bad as any during my tenure.”

The former justice provided the punctuation mark for why we must vote for presidents who will nominate — and senators who will confirm — those jurists who will interpret laws as they were written. Justice Stevens sat on the court from 1975 to 2010, an entire generation. He was the third longest-service justice on the court. A solid progressive, he was succeeded by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Not the First Time

Justice Stevens did not hide his disdain for the conservative majority opinion in District of Columbia v Heller decision, written by the late-Justice Antonin Scalia. That decision reaffirmed that the Second Amendment is an individual right, just as freedom of speech and religion are individual rights.

“The combination of its actual practical impact by increasing the use of guns in the country and also the legal reasoning, which I thought was totally unpersuasive, persuaded me that the case is just about as bad as any in my tenure,” Justice Stevens told the New York Times.

But to be clear, it was not the Heller case or the subsequent decision with which Justice Stevens had an issue. It was the Constitution and Bill of Rights itself. He revealed his hand by calling for repeal of the Second Amendment itself, calling it a “relic of the 18th Century.”

Elections Matter

The court’s newest justices, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, are both originalists. Justice Kavanaugh dissented in the Heller II decision, disagreeing with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia majority opinion that upheld bans on most semiautomatic firearms and allowed draconian registration requirements.

Justice Kavanaugh’s brutal confirmation hearings are still fresh in our minds. Who could forget Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) vehemently defending the nominee, a distinguished jurist, against unproven allegations and cutthroat tactics designed to derail his confirmation.

Here’s the good news. Because voters, many of whom wanted to ensure a pro-gun majority continued serving in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Graham will chair the Judiciary Committee, the panel responsible for vetting and sending Supreme Court nominations to the full Senate for confirmation.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer are in their eighties. Neither has indicated a desire to retire, but no one foresaw that President Trump would be able to nominate, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell successfully secure, the confirmation of two justices in the first two years of an administration.

Justice Stevens most recent remarks might help him sell more copies of this forthcoming memoir. From our standpoint, it reminds voters of the value and importance of their votes to preserve their freedoms and ensure the U.S. Supreme Court respects and preserves our rights for generations to come.

And we thank everyone who showed how much they valued their individual liberties by going to NSSF’s #GUNVOTE voter education site for the information they needed to help ensure that a majority of senators would be in office who value their freedom to purchase and possess firearms and who may well again vote to confirm a Supreme Court justice who shares these prized American traditions.