President Obama has selected a nominee for the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Scalia. His nominee, Merrick Garland, is currently a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and is regarded as a judicial centrist.
He has had two rulings on the subject of gun rights, however, that has drawn the attention of the NRA and the leftist media organization, Media Matters. The claim of the latter is that the claims of the former are bogus. And yet, the evidence offered by Media Matters only supports the NRA’s assertions.
Garland’s two rulings are not exactly smoking guns, but they are guns sitting in the room where interesting things have been going on. One dates from a 2000 case brought by the NRA against then Attorney General Janet Reno regarding the retention of background check records for purposes of audits, while the other case, in 2007, was a part of the appeals that led ultimately to the Heller decision.
The 2000 case was over background checks required by the Brady Act of 1994. The Justice Department requires the FBI to retain check records for the purpose of identifying
instances in which the NICS is used for unauthorized purposes, such as running checks of people other than actual gun transferees, and protect against the invasions of privacy that would result from such misuse. Audits can also determine whether potential handgun purchasers or [gun dealers] have stolen the identity of innocent and unsuspecting individuals or otherwise submitted false identification information, in order to thwart the name check system. The Audit Log will also allow the FBI to perform quality control checks on the system’s operation by reviewing the accuracy of the responses given by the NICS record examiners to gun dealers.
The problem here is that these records amount to a de facto registry linking gun owners to specific guns. I can’t say I’m surprised that the commenters and writers at Media Matters fail to see how this could even involve gun rights. One insisted to me that it was merely a procedural ruling on the Brady Act, not something that dealt with rights at all.
Chew on that for a while. By the same logic, laws requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at hospitals don’t affect that right or a demand from the FBI sent to Apple to unlock an iPhone has no bearing on privacy. In other words, it makes no sense, but that’s the gun control way.
Garland’s vote regarding the 2007 case was to send Parker v. District of Columbia to an en banc hearing by the full circuit court. The court declined to hear the case, resulting ultimately in its moving to the Supreme Court. Media Matters makes a great deal out of the fact that another judge, A. Raymond Randolph, voted the same way as Garland, labeling Randolph as a conservative. This apparently is meant to suggest that the vote was somehow acceptable to supporters of gun rights since someone whom Media Matters thinks is conservative did something. The flaw here is in thinking that position along the popular view of a political spectrum is all that is significant, regardless of whatever the person believes or does.
As I said above, Garland’s rulings are not definitive proof that the judge is opposed to gun rights categorically, but they are indications. With nominations for Supreme Court justices, we often get very little that is conclusive, leaving us having to focus on matters of judicial philosophy. With that in mind, every nominee, Garland and all others who follow him, should be asked how they view individual rights. What do they regard as the origin of those rights, and in what way are those rights to be exercised and limited. But in Garland’s case, we know enough to say that he is a bad choice for the Supreme Court.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.