By Ken Blackwell
Senior Fellow, American Civil Rights Union/Family Research Council
President Obama’s nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor is a declaration of war against America’s gun owners and the Second Amendment to our Constitution. If gun owners mobilize and unite, it’s possible (though unlikely) to stop this radical nominee.
According to Judge Sotomayor, if your state or city bans all guns the way Washington, D.C. did, that’s okay under the Constitution.
Last year the Supreme Court handed down the landmark decision in D.C. v. Heller, holding that the Second Amendment right to bear arms applies to individual citizens in their private lives. The ruling marked a turning point in gun rights in this country.
In the past year, the biggest question courts now face is whether the Second Amendment applies to the states. That may sound crazy, but the reality is that the Bill of Rights only controls the federal government, it doesn’t apply directly to states or cities. Only the parts of the Bill of Rights that are “incorporated” through the Fourteenth Amendment apply to the states.
Since the Heller decision, only two federal appeals courts have written on the Second Amendment. That’s six judges out of about 170. Of those six, three said the Second Amendment does apply to the states. And those judges were out of the liberal Ninth Circuit in California, and included a judge appointed by Bill Clinton and another appointed by Jimmy Carter. — Even leftist judges can get this.
But not Judge Sonia Sotomayor. She is one of only three federal appellate judges in America to issue a court opinion saying that the Second Amendment does not apply to states. The case was Maloney v. Cuomo, and it came down this past January.
That means if Chicago, or even the state of Illinois or New York, wants to ban you from owning any guns at all, even in your own house, that’s okay with her. According to Judge Sotomayor, if your state or city bans all guns the way Washington, D.C. did, that’s okay under the Constitution.
This issue could not be more important. Today, on the very day President Obama has announced Judge Sotomayor’s nomination, the National Rifle Association is arguing Second Amendment incorporation in court before the Seventh Circuit in a case challenging the Chicago ban on handguns.
If this case, or one like it, goes to the Supreme Court, Justice Sotomayor would say that Chicago can ban all your guns. If she can persuade her liberal colleagues on the Court to join her, it could become the law of the land that states and cities can ban guns. Should that happen, then you can expect anti-gun liberals in state legislatures to rush to pass new state laws doing exactly that.
The White House is telling us all about Judge Sotomayor’s compelling personal story — and it is an amazing story of what is possible “only in America.” But compelling personal stories are not the question. Miguel Estrada, whom President George W. Bush nominated to the D.C. Circuit appeals court and was planning on nominating to the Supreme Court, had a compelling story as a Hispanic immigrant who legally came to this country not even speaking English. Democrats filibustered Mr. Estrada.
Supporters point out that Judge Sotomayor was first appointed by George H.W. Bush for the federal trial court — before Bill Clinton elevated her to the Second Circuit appeals court. That’s true, but George H.W. Bush also gave us Justice David Souter, so clearly he wasn’t too careful about putting liberals on the federal bench. We can’t allow the left to hide behind the Bushes.
But when it comes to gun rights, we don’t need to guess. Judge Sotomayor has put in writing what she thinks. President Obama has nominated a radically anti-Second Amendment judge to be our newest Supreme Court justice.
There are a number of pro-Second Amendment Democratic senators from deeply red states, including Mark Begich from Alaska, Jon Tester and Max Baucus from Montana, Ben Nelson from Nebraska, Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad from North Dakota, and Tim Johnson from South Dakota.
These senators will jeopardize their seats if they vote to support an anti-gun radical for the Supreme Court. Second Amendment supporters will now be up in arms over this radical anti-Second Amendment nominee, and you should never underestimate the political power of American gun owners.
Ken Blackwell is a senior fellow with the American Civil Rights Union and the Family Research Council.