Mitch McConnell Accuses Democrats of Browbeating Supreme Court into Pro-Gun Control Ruling

Senate Lawmakers Speak To The Press After Their Weekly Policy Luncheons
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) listens to a question from the media after attending the Republican weekly policy luncheon on Capitol Hill July 23, 2019 in Washington, DC. McConnell has come under fire in recent months for the Senate's inaction on proposed gun control policies. Mark Wilson/Getty

The United States Senate's 53 Republicans sent a letter to the Supreme Court Thursday accusing Senate Democrats of extorting the Supreme Court in order to achieve a favorable ruling on gun control.

"The Association has asked this Court to consider the constitutionality of a law that it believes infringes on the fundamental constitutional rights of ordinary New Yorkers," the letter, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, reads. "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."

The case concerns a New York City ordinance that would have barred the transportation of locked, unloaded firearms to second homes or gun ranges outside city limits. Challenges to the rule were filed by the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case in its upcoming session.

But the state ban was effectively rescinded when the regulation was changed to allow holders of premises licenses to transport unloaded weapons to additional locations outside the city. New York State also developed its own laws requiring municipalities to permit firearm transport.

After the rule changes, New York City asked the Supreme Court to drop the case, arguing that the legal issues at hand were moot, since the plaintiffs had effectively received the relief they were seeking from the courts.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, the junior senator from Rhode Island, filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court alongside a handful of his Democratic colleagues also requesting that the case be dropped on similar grounds.

The brief presented a stark picture of the politicization of the high court and recounted the dark-money-backed campaigns undertaken to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court's newest justice, in October.

At one point, Sen. Whitehouse appeared to make a direct appeal to Chief Justice John Roberts, citing one of his law journal quotes to advocate for judicial restraint. Self-imposed limits on the scope of judicial decision-making serve as an "apolitical limitation on judicial power," Whitehouse argued, quoting Roberts.

Concluding his arguments, Whitehouse wrote that "the Supreme Court is not well. And the people know it," adding, forebodingly: "Perhaps the Court can heal itself before the public demands it be 'restructured in order to reduce the influence of politics.'"

McConnell apparently saw the Democrats' ominous language as an informal attempt to extort the judges into dismissing the case.

The Republicans' letter to the court condensed the brief as such: "Dismiss this case, or we'll pack the Court."

"We are deeply concerned by our colleagues' amicus brief and the ideas it promotes," McConnell's letter reads. "We take no position on the underlying Second Amendment question nor on the mootness issue currently before the Court. But judicial independence is not negotiable. We will brook no threats to this fundamental precept of our constitutional structure."