Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to replace Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, has a record of opposing gun rights as a federal judge, which includes a vote to undo a landmark gun rights ruling.
Garland was one of four judges who voted to rehear the case of Parker v. District of Columbia with a full ten-judge panel after a smaller panel struck down the District of Columbia’s total ban on handguns. Garland’s vote for this en banc hearing indicates that he may believe the decision to strike down the city’s gun ban was mistaken.
The other six judges on the appeals court voted not to rehear the case, and the Supreme Court went on to rule in District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual’s right to bear arms in the case.
District of Columbia v. Heller is considered by gun rights activists to be the most important Second Amendment case in history.
The Heller case is not the only time Garland has ruled against gun rights. In 2000, he ruled against the National Rifle Association in a lawsuit challenging the Justice Department’s handling of gun purchaser’s information. Garland ruled that is was permissible for the department to retain up to six months of records from the National Instant Background Check System, over the NRA’s argument that this practice effectively created an illegal national registry.
Conservatives and gun rights activists reacted negatively to Garland’s nomination, saying he should not be confirmed because of his rulings on guns.
“This is not a good nomination and should not be confirmed,” Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation told the Washington Free Beacon
“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,” Gottlieb said. “The only reason to do so would be to overturn the pro-Second Amendment ruling. That was hostile to gun rights.”
The NRA, the nation’s largest gun rights organization, said it would lobby against Garland’s appointment.
“With Justice Scalia’s tragic passing, there is no longer a majority of support among the justices for the fundamental, individual right to own a firearm for self-defense,” said Chris Cox, the head of the NRA’s lobbying arm. “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. Obama has already nominated two Supreme Court justices who oppose the right to own firearms and there is absolutely no reason to think he has changed his approach this time. In fact, 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.”
Conservative activists have raised other questions about Garland’s voting record.
“Merrick Garland has been called the ideal judge to move the Supreme Court to the left and cement President Obama’s liberal legacy for decades into the future. He was recently considered for an Obama cabinet post and clerked for the court’s liberal icon, Justice William Brennan,” said Brian Rogers, the executive director of America Rising Squared, in a statement.
Republican senators said they will not hold hearings or vote on Garland’s nomination because of the upcoming presidential election.
“The next justice could fundamentally alter the direction of the Supreme Court and have a profound impact on our country, so of course the American people should have a say in the court’s direction,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement. “The Senate will continue to observe the ‘Biden Rule’ so the American people have a voice in this momentous decision.”