Gun Rights Activists See Bright Future for Federal Courts

'This is a Godsend, to be perfectly honest'

A gun store customer examines a handgun / AP
November 17, 2016

Gun rights activists are excited about the future of the nation's federal courts.

Gun advocates are focusing on who President-elect Donald Trump will appoint to the Supreme Court's current vacancy.

National Rifle Association Vice President Wayne LaPierre said in a video released Monday that Donald Trump will appoint a "constitutionally sound justice to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court" and called it a "generational victory for Second Amendment freedom."

Activists' excitement also extends beyond the Supreme Court. The Second Amendment Foundation, a leading gun rights group that advances pro-gun causes through the courts, said its outlook has had a complete turnaround due to Trump's victory. When it looked like Hillary Clinton might win the election, the group thought it would face a more hostile federal judiciary at every level than ever before and was considering holding back on some cases it wanted to pursue.

Now those concerns are gone.

"I'm pretty convinced that Trump is going to appoint judges that care about the Second Amendment and aren't going to try to eradicate it," Alan Gottlieb, the group's founder, told the Washington Free Beacon. "Prior to the election, I was sure that Hillary Clinton would be making those appointments and the Second Amendment was going to be peeled apart. It's a breath of fresh air, I feel great about it, and now a lot of our legal agenda can continue to move forward."

"This is a Godsend, to be perfectly honest about it. It's a whole new day," he added.

Gottlieb said he is excited about the prospect of President-elect Trump appointing a pro-gun Supreme Court justice as well as the prospects for lower federal courts.

"Obviously, the Supreme Court doesn't hear every case," he said. "It picks and chooses what it's going to hear. A lot of times, we get stymied at the lower courts and we never get a chance to go to the Supreme Court. Obama has done a very good job of stacking anti-gun judges at the appeals court level, and this is going to give us a chance now to open up appeals courts in various jurisdictions and have better success with suits that we file."

"There's a record number of vacancies out there, or close to it," Gottlieb said.

NRA spokesperson Jennifer Baker told the Free Beacon that the "Second Amendment was on the ballot" this election and the stakes "could not have been higher." She went on to say "the importance of judicial appointments at all levels cannot be overstated" because of the hundreds of gun rights cases currently pending in federal courts.

"The federal courts are the primary system of redress for people who have had their civil rights violated," she said. "There are hundreds of cases pending in the federal court system that will decide how individuals can exercise their right to keep and bear arms, including cases that will resolve the right to carry a firearm outside your home and the types of firearms that are protected by the U.S. Constitution."

Gottlieb said there could be a change in the attitudes of already appointed federal judges in response to Trump's win.

"The other important part about all of this is a lot of the appeals courts, thinking it was four versus four or that Hillary Clinton was going to appoint the fifth judge, have been deciding that, 'Hey, we can now stick our neck out and say the Second Amendment doesn't mean anything, and we don't have to rule the way the Supreme Court ruled before and we can get away with it,'" he said. "Now, they can't. So, I think it's throwing cold water on that."

"Donald Trump's slogan is 'Make America Great Again.' I think our slogan now becomes 'Make the Second Amendment Great Again,'" Gottlieb said.