On Brett M. Kavanaugh’s final day of testimony at his confirmation hearing, a senator who went to the scene the day of the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court nominee to change his view that the Second Amendment does not prohibit certain semi-automatic weapons.
“I was at Sandy Hook [Elementary School] the afternoon of that massacre,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said late Thursday in reference to the 2012 shooting that killed 20 children and six adults. “I don’t know whether you have been at these kinds of scenes. I don’t know whether you’ve seen the pictures of what these assault weapons can do. They were designed for the sole purpose to kill and maim human beings. They’re very good at it.”
Kavanaugh, as he has on Second Amendment questions throughout his three days before the Senate Judiciary Committee, reacted somewhat dispassionately, even though he repeated that he grew up in the Washington, D.C., area as the nation’s capital faced a surge of violence.
“Senator, I appreciate what your saying,” Kavanaugh said. “I’m from this area. I grew up in it. I don’t want to overstate that. I grew up in an urban-slash-suburban environment where there was a lot of gang and gun violence in the District of Columbia in the 1980s.”
“All that experience isn’t reflected in the test you’re going to impose here,” Blumenthal said, in reference to a 2011 dissent Kavanaugh wrote on his current court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, that would have struck down a District of Columbia law prohibiting semi-automatic rifles. Kavanaugh said his view was based on his reading of a legal test established by the Supreme Court’s landmark 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, which upheld handgun possession because they were not traditionally banned and were in common use by law-abiding citizens.
“I would just suggest that, with all due respect, you give us the benefit of saying here that you will reconsider a test that is out of touch with reality,” Blumenthal said.
Kavanaugh said he could not offer such a promise but would consider all arguments if a similar case came before him again.
Blumenthal had started the conversation by saying he had considered “bringing some posters here today, showing what happened at Sandy Hook when 20 beautiful children and six wonderful educators were gunned down, just as has happened in countless places across the country, including Sutherland Springs in Texas, Parkland in Florida, Las Vegas in Nevada, Orlando in Florida, Virginia Tech, San Bernardino.”
Kavanaugh replied that “of course, I detest all school violence.” He took notes as Blumenthal made his emotional appeal, and repeated that his dissent in the appeals court decision, also known as District of Columbia v. Heller, had concluded with a lament about gun violence.
And when Blumenthal’s time was up, Kavanaugh thanked him for sharing his perspective.
“I appreciate it and will take it into account and remember what you said here,” said Kavanaugh, who concluded his last day of testimony after 10 p.m. Thursday.
On Friday, the committee is scheduled to hear from several panels of witnesses, including Aalayah Eastmond, a Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School student who survived the shooting in Parkland, Fla., by hiding under the body of a slain classmate.
A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.