President Trump’s Supreme Court pick repeatedly relied on a transparently ridiculous talking point — claiming he grew up on the mean streets of suburban Washington, D.C. — to deflect questions about his opposition to gun regulations during his confirmation hearing.
During Wednesday evening’s portion of Brett Kavanaugh’s hearing, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) asked the judge to explain a 2011 dissent he authored holding that Washington, D.C.’s assault weapons ban was unconstitutional.
In the dissent, Kavanaugh wrote that the nation’s capital should not be allowed to ban assault weapons because “gun bans and gun regulations that are not longstanding or sufficiently rooted in text, history, and tradition are not consistent with the Second Amendment individual right.” Essentially, Kavanaugh’s position was that any firearm in “common use” cannot be regulated by the state.
That troubles legislators like Blumenthal, who want Congress to do more to get high-powered guns out of the hands of potential mass shooters.
“My state has a tragic history and experience recently with this issue,” Blumenthal began. “But literally every community in the whole country has some experience with gun violence prevention, because 90 people every day die from it. And I am deeply troubled by your position on this issue that history and tradition govern here, that any weapon in ‘common use’ is protected.”
“The reason that some weapons are not in common use is that they are banned, like machine guns,” he continued. “If our standard is going to be whether assault weapons are in ‘common use,’ we’re going to have more and more of them, and they are in ‘common use,’ they are in ‘common use’ to kill people — that’s what they were designed to do. So I want your explanation as to how possibly you can justify requiring that gun violence prevention statutes have to be ‘longstanding’ or ‘traditional,’ and they cannot in any way protect people from assault weapons that are as you put it in ‘common use,’ because they are in ‘common use’ only because they are not in any way regulated for public safety.”
Instead of engaging with the substance of Blumenthal’s question, Kavanaugh tried to prove his anti-gun violence bonafides by pointing out that he grew up in the Washington, D.C. area.
“A few things, senator. First, at the end of my Heller opinion, I pointed out that I grew up in this area, and this area had been plagued in the ’70s and ’80s by gang and gun, drug violence, and was known for a while as ‘the murder capital of the world,'” Kavanaugh said. “So I understand and appreciate your initial comment on that.”
But Kavanaugh did not in fact grow up in “the murder capital of the world.” He grew up in Bethesda, Maryland — an 86-percent white suburb on the list of Time’s “top earning towns.” He now lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland, a suburb that The Guardian describes as “the super-rich town that has it all — except diversity.”
As a child, he also attended the ultra-exclusive Georgetown Preparatory School in North Bethesda — the same school that Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch attended.
"I grew up in a city plagued by gun and gang and drug violence." Kavanaugh's high school, Georgetown Prep, literally has an on-campus golf course. pic.twitter.com/0mDur3ecLD
— Steve Morris (@stevemorris__) September 5, 2018
Kavanaugh’s “murder capital of the world” comment to Blumenthal wasn’t the first time he used that talking point to deflect questions about his opposition to gun regulations on Wednesday. Earlier in the day, he said the same thing in response to Sen. Diane Feinstein’s (D-CA) line of questioning about his 2011 dissent.
“I’m a native of this area,” Kavanaugh said. “I’m a native of an urban-suburban area. I grew up in a city plagued by gun violence and gang violence and drug violence.”
The faces of those sitting behind Kavanaugh when he said that suggested people in the room weren’t buying it.
Lmao I rewinded just to see everyone's faces when Brett Kavanaugh said that he grew up in a city plagued by gun violence
No one is buying this description of Bethesda pic.twitter.com/4U1UCqDMwJ
— Adrienne Mahsa Varkiani (@AdrienneMahsa) September 5, 2018
When Kavanaugh did get around to trying to deal with the substance of Blumenthal’s question on Wednesday evening, he pointed out that while his position may make it impossible to government to ban assault weapons, that doesn’t mean that there can’t be any gun control laws at all.
“Machine guns can be banned,” he said.
Correction: This article has been updated to accurately reflect the location of the Georgetown Preparatory School.