High court nominee really is against guns

The usual gaggle of anti-gun suspects has come out of the woodwork to attack the “gun lobby’’ for its opposition to any action on behalf of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.

But their defense of Garland against concerns he would gut the Second Amendment has a selective approach to facts. The simple truth is that firearm issues have come before him at least four times, and he voted anti-gun.

In 2007, Garland was one of four judges on the District of Columbia Circuit who voted for the full court to rehear a pro-gun holding of a three-judge panel overturning Washington’s gun ban in D.C. v. Heller.

And, yes, although Garland was joined by A. Raymond Randolph, appointed by George H.W. Bush, Garland’s vote was not merely a matter of intellectual curiosity. A comparable case, Seegars v. Gonzales, was decided differently two years earlier by an anti-gun panel of judges. That time, Garland voted against a rehearing.

In 2000, Garland voted to allow the FBI to retain background check records well beyond the immediate destruction required by the Brady Law. I drafted the prohibition in effect at the time, and I can tell you Garland’s position was contrary to the statute.

Finally, in 2012, Garland voted to allow prosecution of automatic firearms offenses without prosecutors having to prove that the accused knew the gun was automatic, known as mens rea, a common rule in criminal cases.

We know that with his anti-gun record, Garland would be the high court’s “swing vote’’ on the 5-4 Heller decision recognizing an individual right to arms.

We also know that Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer have called for reconsideration of Heller. Whatever the unanimous Supreme Court rejection of a Massachusetts court ruling that upheld the state’s stun-gun ban meant, it surely does not mean that these four justices have suddenly reversed their narrow reading of the Second Amendment.

Some argue that it is somehow either a matter of precedent or a matter of “decorum’’ to give Garland a hearing or at least a vote, a point made recently by former Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. But in an era when the court is acting as a super legislature, the Senate has not only the right but also the obligation to block any nominee who would further that usurpation of power.

I was general counsel to the Senate Steering Committee – the Senate’s conservative Republican caucus – during the Bork nomination. I can tell you that both Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas were crucified by the Senate. With the balance of the court at stake, Senate Democrats have a record of taking whatever steps are politically doable to stop pro-gun-rights court nominees

So, yes, the gun lobby will continue to oppose the Garland nomination. And, yes, Democrats in pro-gun states might want to keep this in mind.

Michael Hammond, general counsel of Gun Owners of America, is the former executive director of the Senate Steering Committee.

Read at Star Press