by Gregory Magarian, Professor of Law, Washington University School of Law
Today I and nine other law professors who study the Second Amendment and legal issues related to gun violence have called on the Senate Judiciary Committee to evaluate President Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland to the United States Supreme Court without regard to the right-wing fantasy that Judge Garland hates the Second Amendment. Senate Majority Leader McConnell has all but stated that the N.R.A. will dictate the Senate's approach to its constitutional responsibility of advice and consent on the nomination. The N.R.A. has all but branded Judge Garland a gun-seizing thug. Both positions are very important and very dangerous.
In Judge Garland's nearly two decades on the D.C. Circuit, he has twice encountered cases that touched on gun rights. In one case he voted, along with a bipartisan group of colleagues, for en banc rehearing of a panel decision that upheld an individual right to keep and bear arms, the decision the Supreme Court eventually affirmed in District of Columbia v. Heller. In the other case he wrote an opinion that let the George W. Bush administration temporarily maintain some records about gun ownership. The idea that, based on those actions, a Justice Garland would vote to overrule or limit the decisions in Heller and/or McDonald v. Chicago is, regrettably, irrational. The N.R.A., however, portrays the barest nod toward caution or procedural regularity about gun rights as a black helicopter on the horizon.
That unhinged or calculated (take your pick) attitude toward the law makes it especially terrifying that the Senate Republican Conference has effectively outsourced its judgment about the Court to the N.R.A. The Senate is supposed to work for the American people. The present Senate -- to whatever minimal extent it deigns to work at all -- has sworn blind obedience to one very special interest group, a group whose sole reason for being is to make sure that any person, no matter how homicidal, can add to his private arsenal any gun, no matter how lethal.