When Justice Antonin Scalia passed away suddenly last year, the Supreme Court lost its premier conservative voice and defender of the Second Amendment.
Justice Scalia was a champion of individual freedoms, and adhered to a strong originalist philosophy of interpreting the Constitution. With little room for the personal politics that many judges try to inject into court rulings, Scalia relied on the text of the document to decide cases.
“After eight years of anti-gun policies from the Obama Administration … an open seat on the Court is a welcome opportunity to return to the principles of the Constitution.”
That is also why it’s good news President Trump chose Neil Gorsuch, a current federal appellate judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, as his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. Gorsuch is someone who can fill this critical void left by Justice Scalia.
Gorsuch has also followed an originalist interpretation of the Constitution during his legal career, having been appointed to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals by President George W. Bush, and before that, serving in the Department of Justice.
A firm belief in adhering to the freedoms spelled out in the Constitution by our Founding Fathers has given Judge Gorsuch a steady hand, and made him a popular and approachable member of the 10th Circuit. Though he has only ruled on a few Second Amendment related cases, Gorsuch has proved himself to be a defender of gun rights.
He made his stance very clear when he wrote in one legal opinion that “the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to own firearms and may not be infringed lightly.”
With the current Court almost deadlocked on gun issues, any potential cases that come before the Supreme Court this year could have a make-or-break impact on Second Amendment rights in this country. If the Court decides to hear any gun related cases this year, it is critical that there be a majority of justices on the bench who believe in the Constitutional right to bear arms.
One potential case that could come before the Supreme Court this year challenges an individual’s right to carry a gun for self-defense, and requiring them to prove to the government that they have a legitimate reason for doing so.
In 2014, Peruta v. California was decided by three judges on the 9th Circuit, who ruled that San Diego County’s policy of a gun owner needing a documented “good cause” in order to obtain a concealed carry permit was in violation of the Second Amendment.
However, the victory for the Constitution was short-lived, and the ruling was appealed. All 11 judges on the 9th Circuit were called in to rehear the case, and the ruling was overturned in 2016. The California Rifle and Pistol Association has petitioned the Supreme Court to review this case, and if their request is granted, Gorsuch will be a crucial vote. No citizen should need a government approved “reason” to carry a firearm — it is already expressly stated in the Constitution.
An appeal has also been filed to ask the Supreme Court to hear a challenge to District of Columbia v. Heller, which in 2008 affirmed that it is a constitutional right to keep a gun in the home for self-defense. Justice Scalia wrote the opinion for that case, which was decided in a close 5-4 decision.
If the case is accepted by the Court, the justices will be asked to rule on a person’s right to carry a gun outside their home for self-defense. With the decision in Heller being so close, it is critical that the Second Amendment have another advocate on the Court.
After eight years of anti-gun policies from the Obama administration, which sought to chip away at the right to bear arms, an open seat on the Court is a welcome opportunity to return to the principles of the Constitution. Instead of special interests and judges who attempt to shape public policy through court cases, Gorsuch’s originalist and textualist viewpoint provides clear guidance uninfluenced by politics.
In the statement he gave following the announcement of his nomination, Gorsuch said, “Standing here, in a house of history, and acutely aware of my own imperfections, I pledge that if I am confirmed, I will do all my powers permit to be a faithful servant to the Constitution and laws of this great country.”
With all of the potential challenges to the Constitution in the coming years, Gorsuch provides a foothold on what could be a rocky path.
Tim Schmidt is the president and founder of the U.S. Concealed Carry Association, and may be contacted at [email protected]