Everytown dings WI Supreme Court candidate... over abortion?

Everytown dings WI Supreme Court candidate... over abortion?
(AP Photo/ Cheryl Senter)

Everytown for Gun Safety’s latest ad attacking Wisconsin Supreme Court nominee (and former WI Supreme Court justice) Daniel Kelly takes an odd approach for a gun control group; hitting Kelly for his positions on abortion as well as his his role in a 2017 Second Amendment case. It’s not the first time the supposedly single-issue group has tried to use abortion to drum up support for anti-gun candidates, and Everytown’s president is trying to draw a straight line between Kelly’s positions on the two issues.

“Dan Kelly wants to make it harder for women to make their own reproductive choices and easier for criminals to get their hands on guns — both of which are terrible for the health and safety of Wisconsinites,” John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a statement. “With the U.S. Supreme Court having opened the door to the arguments of gun rights extremists, it’s more important than ever for us to elect state judges who respect the right to take common-sense steps to prevent gun violence.”

Like turning law-abiding gun owners into criminals? When you dig deeper into Everytown’s objections to Kelly’s record, it seems that what they’re really objecting to is his belief that the Second Amendment is a real right, and one of fundamental importance.

The ad claims Kelly “opposed background checks on all gun sales,” pointing to a 2017 decision that made it easier for “dangerous people” to carry guns in public. The campaign also claims Kelly “worked for a radical anti-abortion group,” showing clips from protests that occurred after the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court in June.

“Here’s what you don’t know,” the ad narrator says. “Banning abortion. Putting our communities at risk. Dan Kelly is too extreme for our Supreme Court.”

The ad aired in Milwaukee and Madison media markets on Monday, hoping to influence the race to replace Judge Patience Roggensack, who votes with the 4-3 conservative majority and is retiring after 20 years. Several cases, such as abortion access, are making their way through the Supreme Court, and Democrats view this race as an opportunity to reshape Wisconsin’s judicial system and state law.

So what was that 2017 decision that supposedly made it easier for “dangerous people” to carry guns all about? Well, as it turns out, the case involved a challenge to a particular “sensitive place” designated by officials in the People’s Republic of Madison; public transportation. Kelly was the author of a 5-2 decision that overturned the ban, ruling that it violated the state’s firearm preemption law.

The plaintiffs argue that Wisconsin’s Act 35, the state’s concealed carry law, pre-empts any local government from imposing stricter regulations on when and where license holders may take their guns.

A circuit judge and the Court of Appeals agreed that the Act 35 pre-emption rule only applies to counties, cities, villages or towns adopting ordinances or resolutions more strict than the state’s gun law, and not to an  “agency rule” of the transit commission.

Kelly, however, said the court is “not merely arbiters of word choice,” and must apply the plain meaning of a statute. And since cities derive their authority from the state, the Act 35 prohibition prevents even an agency rule from restricting licensed gun owners from taking their weapons on Madison’s buses.

“In the city’s reading of the statute, the Legislature made a conscious decision to withdraw firearms regulating authority from a municipality’s democratically accountable governing body while leaving that authority entirely undiminished when exercised by the municipality’s democratically unaccountable sub-units,” he wrote.

In other words, if cities aren’t allowed to impose their own local gun control laws, then city agencies aren’t allowed to do so either. That’s hardly a controversial position to take, unless you’re opposed to things like firearms preemption and concealed carry to begin with like Everytown.

Maybe that explains Everytown’s embrace of the abortion issue, as well as their desire to obfuscate the details of that 2017 decision. If the facts are known, Kelly’s position doesn’t sound extreme at all… at least not compared to Everytown’s position that the tens of millions of Americans who possess a concealed carry license and responsibly exercise their right to bear arms are “dangerous people” for doing so.