This week, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the vacant seat on the Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch, is being grilled during his Senate confirmation hearings.
On the second day of hearings, notoriously anti-gun Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, pressed Gorsuch on his opinion about the right of American citizens to own “M-16 rifles and the like.”
Gorsuch gave an opinion that some are lauding and others are deriding. Here a transcript of the actual exchange, thanks to dailysignal.com.
Feinstein: “In D.C. v. Heller, the majority opinion written by Justice Scalia recognized that, and I’m quoting, ‘Of course the Second Amendment was not unlimited,’ end quote. Justice Scalia wrote, for example, laws restricting access to guns by the mentally ill or laws forbidding gun possession in schools were consistent with the limited nature of the Second Amendment. Justice Scalia also wrote that, ‘Weapons that are more useful in military service, M-16 rifles and the like, may be banned without infringing on the Second Amendment.’ Do you agree with that statement that under the Second Amendment weapons that are most useful in military service … may be banned? “
Gorsuch responded by saying, “Heller makes clear the standard that we judges are supposed to apply. The question is whether it is a gun in common use for self-defense, and that may be subject to reasonable regulation. That’s the test as I understand it. There is lots of ongoing litigation about which weapons qualify under those standards. And I can’t prejudge that litigation.”
Feinstein: “I’m just asking, do you agree with [Scalia’s] statement, yes or no?”
Gorsuch: “Whatever’s in Heller is the law, and I follow the law.”
Feinstein: “So you agree with it?”
Gorsuch: “It is not a matter of agreeing or disagreeing, Senator, respectfully, it’s a matter of it being the law and my job is to apply and enforce the law.”
Later, Feinstein brought up a case out of Maryland where the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals heard a challenge to a 2013 state law that banned “assault weapons” and the sale of so-called “large-capacity” magazines and made it illegal to possess “the vast majority of semi-automatic rifles.”
Initially, in February 2016, a three-judge panel http://michellawyers.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Kolbe-v.-Hogan_Opinion.pdf from the Fourth Circuit vacated the lower court’s decision, and sent it back to the district court. http://dailysignal.com/2016/02/05/a-legal-victory-for-gun-rights/
By February of 2017, it was in front of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which upheld Maryland’s law banning the rifles and magazines, saying the Second Amendment offers no impediment to such legislation. Among the judges who joined the court’s 10-4 decision was a highly respected legal conservative Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III.
In his decision, Wilkinson said the Second Amendment is ambiguous, and that voters in respective states—not the courts—should decide whether to adopt gun regulations.
Since this is potentially a major Second Amendment case that Gorsuch could hear on the Supreme Court if he is confirmed as the new Justice, his answer could mean a lot for the future of gun rights in this country.
Here’s how that exchange went:
Feinstein: “Do you agree with Judge Wilkinson that the Second Amendment is ambiguous? Should the ambiguity be decided by the court or legislatures?”
Gorsuch: “I would begin by saying, I hold Judge Wilkinson in high regard. He’s a very fine man and a very fine judge.”
Feinstein: Can you say yes or no?
Gorsuch: “The Supreme Court of the United States isn’t final because it is infallible as Justice Jackson reminds us, it is infallible because it is final. And Judge Wilkinson had his view, and the Supreme Court has spoken. And Heller is the law of the land and Justice—Judge Wilkinson may disagree with it and I understand that. And he may—but he will follow the law no less than any other judge in America. I am confident of that. He’s a very fine judge who takes his oath seriously.”
The confirmation hearings for Gorsuch, which began Monday, will continue through Thursday. The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on his nomination by April 13.