No Voice for Gun Control at Sotomayor Hearings
After I wrote my earlier posts about how the National Rifle Association opposes the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court and explaining the “incorporation” debate that dominated much of the Second Amendment discussion at the hearing, I got a note from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, whose concerns were decidedly NOT represented in the Senate Judiciary Committee this week.
Although surely plenty of senators agree with the idea of preventing gun violence, it’s a testament to how influential the NRA has become that no one had the courage to ask Sotomayor to explain the inherent reasonableness of regulating firearms in a country where more than 50 children are killed every week by guns.
Here’s what the Brady Campaign had to say about the NRA’s statement and Sotomayor’s nomination:
“During the second day of her Senate confirmation hearings, Judge Sotomayor has now been asked for her views on the Second Amendment. She has given clear and responsible answers, while not pre-judging any issues that may come before her on the Court. We have been impressed with her presentation.
**“In stark contrast, gun lobby extremists have revealed their preference for an activist Supreme Court Justice who would support their ‘any gun, anywhere, anytime’ ideology. Judge Sotomayor’s comments today as well as her judicial opinions in cases involving gun laws, however, show respect for the Constitution, for precedent and for the considered judgments of legislative bodies in protecting communities from gun violence. **
“Judge Sotomayor’s background and her experience as a prosecutor have given her an invaluable understanding of the devastating impact of gun violence on families and communities. Because of her experience enforcing gun laws, she brings to the bench an appreciation of the importance of those laws in protecting our citizens.
“The Brady Campaign enthusiastically endorses Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the position of Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.” [The Brady Campaign's emphasis, not mine.]
It’s worth noting that despite harsh and one-sided questioning on the Second Amendment issue, Sotomayor was careful never to say how she’d vote on the matter were it to come before the Supreme Court — which it very likely will during her expected tenure. Although she’s ruled in the past that there is no “fundamental” right of an individual to bear arms that’s enforceable against state governments, the court opinion she signed onto carefully explained that the court believed that result was mandated by Supreme Court and Second Circuit precedent. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in an opinion by the conservative Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook, has reached the same conclusion.
The Supreme Court could rule differently, however, and given that its latest ruling on the gun issue was a 5-4 decision, Sotomayor’s position on the issue is important. Even if Sotomayor rules as the Brady campaign might hope, though, NRA supporters could win the day if the key gun question — whether there’s a “fundamental right” to possess a gun that’s enforceable against the states — reaches the court before President Obama gets to appoint another justice.