Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's conservative views on abortion are coming under intense scrutiny. So is his position on whether a sitting president can be the subject of a criminal investigation.
But another troubling concern is Kavanaugh's stance on gun rights. The National Rifle Association's top lobbyist called Kavanaugh an "outstanding choice" with "an impressive record that demonstrates his strong support for the Second Amendment."
No wonder. As an appellate judge, Kavanaugh wrote a dissenting opinion in 2011 that said he would strike down a ban in Washington, D.C. on some assault weapons as well as a requirement that firearms be registered.
The 2-1 majority upheld the assault ban and some of the registration rules. Both judges in the majority were Republican appointees, underscoring how Kavanaugh's dissenting views on guns are to the right of his conservative colleagues.
The two judges in the majority said the D.C. laws were consistent with the Supreme Court's landmark 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller that said the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to possess firearms in the home for lawful purposes, including self-defense.
The 5-4 ruling was written by then-Justice Antonin Scalia and joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who Kavanaugh would replace. While that ruling was a radical departure from previous interpretations of the Second Amendment, Scalia added that gun rights are "not unlimited" and that certain restrictions are permissible, including bans on "dangerous and unusual weapons."
Given Kavanaugh's dissenting view, it would appear he favors expanding gun rights beyond Scalia's Heller opinion.
Sen. Chris Murphy, (D., Conn.), called Kavanaugh a "true Second Amendment radical."
"He believes assault weapon bans are unconstitutional, a position way out of the judicial mainstream, far to the right of even late Justice Scalia," Murphy said.
Kavanaugh's extreme views on guns align with the NRA's shift away from a mainstream organization that promoted marksmanship, conservation and hunting. In the 1930s, the NRA helped pass gun-control laws. Then-NRA president Karl Frederick testified that guns "should be sharply restricted and only under licenses." Even President Ronald Reagan endorsed gun control measures, including background checks and an assault weapons ban.
But in the late 1970s, the NRA was hijacked by hard-liners who came to embrace the paranoid, conspiracy-theory, militia nuts who think the federal government wants to seize all private firearms. The head of that tinfoil-hat brigade is current NRA boss Wayne LaPierre, whose organizations gets millions of dollars from the gun industry.
LaPierre once sent a fund-raising letter that said the ban on assault weapons "gives jack-booted government thugs more power to take away our constitutional rights, break in our doors, seize our guns, destroy our property, and even injure or kill us."
Meanwhile, the U.S. has become the gun-toting capital of the world, home to roughly 300 million guns, routine mass shootings, roughly 13,000 gun murders a year, tens of thousands of suicides by gun and multiple shootings a day on average just in Philadelphia.
A majority of Americans support common-sense gun laws. But until those supporters vote, the NRA and the likely appointment of Kavanaugh will ensure the deadly bullets keep flying.