Gorsuch and Guns

Gorsuch and Guns
Judge Neil Gorsuch is President Trump's nomination for the Supreme Court. photo from heavy.comweb photo

Last night, in something of a prime time TV stunt, President Donald Trump announced his nomination of Neil Gorsuch, a Denver appellate judge, for the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

“Judge Gorsuch has outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous discipline and has earned bipartisan support,” Trump said during the announcement. “He could have had any job at any law firm for any amount of money. But what he wanted to do with his career was to be a judge, to write decisions, and to make an impact by upholding our laws and our Constitution.”

Almost immediately, the National Rifle Association issued a statement making it clear they are fully behind the Gorsuch nomination.

"President Trump has made an outstanding choice in nominating Judge Gorsuch for the U.S. Supreme Court. He has an impressive record that demonstrates his support for the Second Amendment," said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA-ILA, in this story from heavy.com. "We urge the Senate to swiftly confirm Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, just as it did in confirming him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit by a unanimous vote."

Though Gorsuch has made a number of important decisions during his time on the bench, he hasn’t ruled one way or the other on any prominent gun issues.

The story says one of the reasons the NRA supports Gorsuch is because he once wrote in a legal opinion: “The Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to own firearms and may not be infringed lightly.”

That statement was part of a comment in the case of United States v. Games-Perez, in which he wrote, “There is a long tradition of widespread gun ownership by private individuals in this country.”

According to SCOTUSblog, Gorsuch is an originalist, which means he believes judges should attempt to interpret the words of the Constitution as they were understood at the time they were written.

"(Gorsuch) is an ardent textualist (like Scalia); he believes criminal laws should be clear and interpreted in favor of defendants even if that hurts government prosecutions (like Scalia); he is skeptical of efforts to purge religious expression from public spaces (like Scalia); he is highly dubious of legislative history (like Scalia); and he is less than enamored of the dormant commerce clause (like Scalia)," the site says.

According to this story from the Charlotte Observer, "Gorsuch has supported the Second Amendment in his case readings," although some of the cases only "tangentially involve gun rights."

His dissenting opinion in the same case includes the statement: “gun possession is often lawful and sometimes even protected as a matter of constitutional right.”

Some gun-rights proponents have raised concerns about a majority opinion he joined in the case United States v. Rodriguez. The case in New Mexico involved a police officer disarming a man who was carrying a concealed handgun. The officer did this before determining whether or not he was a convicted felon.

Heavy.com reports that the magazine American Thinker expressed concerns that "According to the 10th Circuit's opinion, the police are justified in forcibly disarming every armed citizen based on nothing more than the presence of a concealed firearm. This allows the police to treat every law-abiding gun owner like a criminal."

On the other end, Gorsuch is widely considered to be on the same philosophical plane as Scalia, who was an important proponent of Second Amendment rights while he sat on the Supreme Court, such as the monumental 2008 Heller 5-4 decision, which reaffirmed that the Second Amendment does indeed grant Americans the right to own firearms.

If confirmed, the 49-year-old Gorsuch would be the youngest Supreme Court Justice on the bench in 25 years and would bring about a renewed conservative majority to the court with Justice Anthony Kennedy, 80, serving as the swing vote.

The U.S. Senate is now tasked with confirming Gorsuch, which is expected to be delayed as much as possible by Senate Democrats.