Blumenthal, Whitehouse, Stabenow, Colleagues Release Report Exposing Powerful Gun Lobby's Scheme to Strike Down Commonsense Gun Safety Laws Through the Courts

October 23, 2020

The corrupt NRA – supported by gun manufacturers & dark money interests – has poured millions of dollars into capturing the courts 

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) today released an extensive report detailing the process by which the corrupt National Rifle Association (NRA), with gun manufacturers and dark money interests bankrolling its operations, has captured America’s courts to roll back sensible gun safety laws—and the real harm this scheme, if successful, would inflict on the American people who see the most gun-related violence of any comparable country in the world.  

The report, unveiled by the senators at a press call with gun safety advocates, comes as Republicans try to rush through the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a jurist to match their extremist Second Amendment agenda. During her confirmation hearings this week, Barrett dodged answering questions around her ruling in Kanter v. Barr in which she would have allowed a convicted felon to possess a firearm and which she herself previously said “sounds kind of radical.” If confirmed to the Court, Barrett could potentially cast the deciding vote on future gun safety regulations and strike down commonsense gun safety laws already in place. 

“Deluging dark money from the gun lobby to Republicans helps explain why they’re rushing to confirm Amy Coney Barrett, who favors felons owning firearms,” said Blumenthal.“Judge Barrett’s radical, extreme interpretation of the Second Amendment would advance the relentless campaign by the NRA and gun manufacturers to capture the courts—and strike down commonsense gun violence prevention laws like Connecticut’s. Bankrolled by dark money, the gun lobby with the corrupt NRA at its helm has ruthlessly sought to reshape federal courts at every level. This report reveals how they’ve warped democracy in their quest to roll back sensible gun safety laws. An outraged American public should demand change.”  

“The gun industry can’t win by playing fair so it’s helped build a massive scheme to rig our courts in its favor,” said Whitehouse. “The NRA knows its callous agenda would shrivel up and die in Congress, and that the overwhelming majority of Americans support stronger gun safety measures like background checks. By capturing the courts, special interest donors like the NRA can sidestep the will of the people and boost gun industry profits. Americans deserve to know who’s behind this scheme so they can stand up and say ‘enough’.”  

Thirty-eight thousand Americans die from gun violence each year, an average of 100 people every day. Rates of gun violence are increasing across the country and mass shootings are becoming more deadly. As a result, Americans overwhelmingly support gun safety legislation, yet the United States continues to have the weakest gun laws and the most guns held by residents – 393 million – of any comparable country in the world. 

“The gun lobby is flailing,” said Giffords Law Center Litigation Director Hannah Shearer. They have lost public support, continue spending money on legal fees, and they’re losing the legislators they paid so much for. That’s why the NRA has turned to the courts. Desperate to overturn the judicial consensus in favor of gun safety laws, the NRA partnered with President Trump to send judges who agree with their unprecedented and unlimited interpretation of the Second Amendment to every federal court in the land. Judge Barrett is one of these judges; the NRA celebrated her appeals court appointment in 2017, and now they’ve been rewarded. If she is confirmed, the NRA will have another justice on the highest court in the land who affirms their dangerous worldview. We can’t let that happen. The Senate must reject this nomination and what it stands for. 

“Last week, we saw that Judge Barrett would be a dream come true Supreme Court Justice for the NRA, but a nightmare for the safety of the American people,” said Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts. “Giving Judge Barrett a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court would put nearly every gun safety law at risk, and our grassroots army of nearly 6 million supporters will stop at nothing to hold Senate Republicans accountable for breaking the rules and their word to steal this seat.”

 “Last week, we saw that the gun lobby’s investment in Donald Trump continues to pay dividends, even as their extremist agenda and corruption alienate the American public,” said Brady Campaign President Kris Brown. “While 100 people die of gun violence every day in the United States, Judge Amy Coney Barrett showed this week that she will further the NRA’s agenda on the Supreme Court. It’s why they so readily cheered her nomination; and, it’s why we cannot allow her nomination to move forward.” 

"We have an inherent and constitutionally protected right not to be shot," said March for Our Lives Judicial Advocacy Associate Tabitha Escalante. "This right is in danger. The rushed attempt to fill Justice Ginsburg's seat before the election reflects the President and Senate Republicans’ relentless efforts to corrupt our judiciary and overturn protections for women, immigrants, the LGBTQ+ community, the environment, and the thousands of us who are impacted by gun violence each year. Judge Barrett spent three days evading questions from our elected leaders, but she managed to confirm what her record already shows, which is that she is an existential threat to our right to live."

The gun lobby, led by the NRA, has for decades been advocating an extreme interpretation of the Second Amendment and poured millions of dollars into capturing the courts to roll back sensible gun safety legislation. Although the NRA claims to be a membership organization, it receives a significant portion of its financial support from gun manufacturers and other dark money interests. A recent lawsuit has revealed that the NRA may have violated campaign finance laws and the terms of its own charitable tax-exempt status, showering its leadership with gifts and travel.

The full report is available here

Blumenthal, Whitehouse, and Stabenow were joined in today’s release by U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

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