Hearings to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee to fill the vacant seat on the United States Supreme Court, began Tuesday. Much attention has rightfully been focused on his troubling legal decisions on issues such as access to health care, reproductive rights and regulations protecting the environment and workers. We write to add another issue to the list of concerns about Kavanaugh’s lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court: Maine’s ability to keep its citizens safe from gun violence.

There were 1,280 firearm deaths in Maine from 2007 to 2016, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Our organizations, the Maine Gun Safety Coalition and States United to Prevent Gun Violence, and our supporters on both sides of the aisle work tirelessly to ensure this number falls dramatically over the next decade. We will accomplish this by closing loopholes in our current gun laws, disarming domestic abusers, introducing an extreme risk law that empowers families and law enforcement to prevent gun violence, and by continuing to provide free trigger locks throughout Maine.

If Kavanaugh is confirmed, he will make it impossible for Maine lawmakers to pass common-sense gun laws that keep our communities safe. It is for that reason that we oppose the nomination of Kavanaugh, and why we urge Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King to vote against his confirmation.

A review of Kavanaugh’s Second Amendment record shows that he is far outside the mainstream of even other conservative judges and in direct opposition to the values and principles of most Mainers.

In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4, in District of Columbia v. Heller, that the Second Amendment protected an individual’s right to possess a firearm, but noted that the right could be subject to reasonable regulations. In a dissenting opinion in a case following the Heller decision, Kavanaugh stated that there is an “absence of a role for judicial interest balancing or assessment of costs and benefits of gun regulations.” This notion defies Heller, which made clear that “like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.” If a right is not unlimited, and regulations are passed to limit the right, who but the courts are to assess the validity and constitutionality of gun regulations?

Kavanaugh’s language suggests that he would strike down any gun regulation he may consider as a Supreme Court justice. This, too, runs contrary to the Heller opinion, which noted examples of gun control measures that passed constitutional muster. As Justice Antonin Scalia, author of the majority opinion in Heller, wrote: “The Second Amendment does not protect those weapons not typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes, such as short-barreled shotguns,” because the regulation was “supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.’ ”

Kavanaugh’s record suggests that he would disregard public safety justifications for gun safety laws. In the dissent cited above, he stated that “semi-automatic rifles have traditionally not been banned and are in common use today, and are thus protected” by the Second Amendment. This view has been rejected by the four federal appeals courts – including the one on which Kavanaugh serves – that have upheld current assault weapon bans.

Further still, Kavanaugh claimed that there is no constitutional difference between assault weapons and handguns, and he considers modern laws invalid when they contradict regulations made at the time the Second Amendment was drafted.

Kavanaugh’s extremist views have not been adopted by any court since the original Heller decision 10 years ago. Even Kavanaugh’s Republican-appointed colleagues on the D.C. Circuit disagreed with his understanding of the Second Amendment.

Kavanaugh’s record suggests that he will undermine the ability of individual states to keep their citizens safe. He has demonstrated that he will invalidate state laws that regulate the carrying of concealed firearms and weaken the barriers that keep domestic abusers from accessing guns.

Kavanaugh has described himself as a “lonely voice” on gun regulations. Those senators set to question him at his confirmation hearing should demand that he answer whether there is a single, specific gun regulation he would vote to uphold. They should probe his reasoning for striking reasonable regulations. And they should ask how they might square his view of the Second Amendment with legal precedent that is at odds with his radical interpretation.

There is still time to stop Kavanaugh’s appointment and protect the right of Mainers to decide what gun laws make sense for Maine. There has never been a more important vote for Sen. Susan Collins. We urge you to call her office and tell her this is her Margaret Chase Smith moment – a chance to act courageously and without regard to party – because lives are at stake.

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