Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is being treated for pancreatic cancer. While Americans pray for her recovery, this sad news is a sobering reminder that President Obama is likely to appoint several justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. And in the aftermath of last year’s landmark decision on the Second Amendment, gun owners need to zero in on what these events mean for the future of the right to bear arms.
Last year the Supreme Court held in D.C. v. Heller that the Second Amendment secures the right to bear arms for individual Americans. In doing so, the Court rejected the view put forth by liberals that the Second Amendment only empowers state governments to equip their National Guard units.
But too many lose sight of the fact that the Heller decision was a 5-4 decision. Four justices - only one short of a majority - adopted the liberal argument that the Second Amendment does not involve any rights whatsoever for private citizens. The Second Amendment was only a single vote away from being eradicated from the Constitution.
Justice Ginsburg was one of those four.
Fortunately for Justice Ginsburg, the doctors detected the cancer in its earliest stages. But pancreatic cancer is among the most aggressive types of cancer, and even with early detection and immediate surgery her recovery will probably require her to step down. President Obama will likely have to nominate someone to Justice Ginsburg’s seat before his presidential term is finished.
This is a reminder that one of the most consequential things a president does is appoint federal judges, especially those to the Supreme Court. All federal judges serve for life, and they wield the power to authoritatively interpret and apply the Constitution as the supreme law of the land. It is quite possible that President Obama may exercise his appointment power to fill Supreme Court vacancies as many as three times before the 2012 elections.
That being so, legal circles are all abuzz right now about whom President Obama is likely to appoint, either to Justice Ginsburg’s seat or to other seats on the high court that may open up soon. Several judges from the federal appeals courts come up repeatedly, as do several names from elite law schools.