National gun rights organizations are turning thumbs down on President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested this is an election year gambit designed to create a political issue heading into November.
Alan Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation immediately reacted to the Garland announcement stating, “This is not a good nomination and Judge Garland should not be confirmed.” Gottlieb is also chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
That opposition was echoed by the National Rifle Association’s Chris Cox, executive director of the organization’s Institute for Legislative Action (ILA). He issued a statement Wednesday afternoon.
“With Justice (Antonin) Scalia’s tragic passing,” Cox said, “there is no longer a majority of support among the justices for the fundamental, individual right to own a firearm for self-defense. Four justices believe law-abiding Americans have that right – and four justices do not. President Obama has nothing but contempt for the Second Amendment and law-abiding gun owners.”
Noting that the president “has already nominated two Supreme Court justices who oppose the right to own firearms,” Cox said here is no reason to believe Obama has changed his approach this time.
“In fact,” Cox said, “a basic analysis of Merrick Garland’s judicial record shows that he does not respect our fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense. Therefore, the National Rifle Association, on behalf of our five million members and tens of millions of supporters across the country, strongly opposes the nomination of Merrick Garland for the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Sen. McConnell used the opportunity to remind Democrats of the position they took during a previous election year when a Republican president was in office.
“It seems clear that President Obama made this nomination not with the intent of seeing the nominee confirmed but in order to politicize it for purposes of the election,” McConnell told a reporter Wednesday.
The Second Amendment groups have company from a women’s group. Erin Hawley, legal fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum and an associate professor of law at the University of Missouri, issued a statement that “The Senate should ensure that the next President can appoint the next Supreme Court nominee, by refusing to take up consideration of this nominee.”
Hawley said this was not an “abrogation of the Senate’s duty, but rather an exercise of it.” She said the vacancy to be filled “is that of conservative legal champion.” Garland, who is the chief judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, is not considered to be a conservative jurist who could fill Scalia’s seat.
The Washington Times noted in its story about the nomination that Garland “has a very liberal view on gun rights.” The newspaper was quoting the Judicial Crisis Network, which reportedly plans to spend “at least $2 million” on an advertising effort to oppose the nomination.
Justice Scalia authored the landmark 2008 Second Amendment ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, which affirmed the Second Amendment protects an individual and fundamental civil right to own guns, notwithstanding service in some militia. Scalia was considered a cornerstone conservative on the court. Gun rights advocates contend that if Heller is reversed, it effectively nullifies the Second Amendment.
“Just as Second Amendment advocates have feared,” Gottlieb said, “President Obama is trying to change the court’s makeup to destroy the individual right to keep and bear arms,” Gottlieb stated. “This administration has done everything it can to erode the Second Amendment, and turn a right into a government-regulated privilege.
“Those of us on the front lines of the Second Amendment battle have warned for the past eight years that the right to keep and bear arms can live or die on a single vote,” he added, “and nothing makes that more clear than (this) nomination. I hope the Senate, if it takes up this nomination, promptly rejects it.”
As this column reported earlier, alarms began sounding over the Garland nomination days before it actually happened. In a piece for the National Review Online, writer Carrie Severino observed, “Garland has a long record, and, among other things, it leads to the conclusion that he would vote to reverse one of Justice Scalia’s most important opinions, D.C. vs. Heller, which affirmed that the Second Amendment confers an individual right to keep and bear arms.”
Gottlieb, whose foundation has been involved in several lawsuits challenging the gun laws in the District of Columbia, recalled, “Judge Garland voted to grant an en banc hearing to Heller after the three judge panel struck down the District of Columbia’s gun ban law. The only reason to do so would be to overturn the pro-Second Amendment ruling. That was hostile to gun rights.”