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NRA Members Must Oppose Sotomayor

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Barack Obama’s first nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, has a narrow view of the Second Amendment that contradicts the Court’s landmark decision in District of Columbia v. Heller.  A heated debate has started in the U.S. Senate over her opposition to the right to keep and bear arms. This issue, which has decided the fate of presidential elections, could also decide her nomination. Gun owners, and especially the members of the National Rifle Association, must aggressively oppose Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.  

On June 24, senators began speaking on the floor of the Senate expressing grave concerns over Judge Sotomayor’s Second Amendment record. Senator Jeff Sessions R-AL, the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, pointed out that although her record on the issue is “fairly scant,” she has twice stated that the Second Amendment is not a fundamental right.  Senator Sessions also noted that in Second Amendment and other constitutional cases, Sotomayor’s analysis of important constitutional issues has been lacking suggesting “a troubling tendency to avoid or casually dismiss difficult Constitutional issues of exceptional importance.”  Sotomayor’s view on the Second Amendment clearly reflects an extreme anti-gun philosophy, and some Democrat senators from pro-gun states are justifiably nervous.

Last year, the Supreme Court held in Heller that the Second Amendment guarantees the right of individual Americans to keep and bear firearms. But that ruling was a fiercely-contested, 5-4 split decision. Justice Kennedy joined the four conservatives on the Court to make the majority, with the four liberal justices writing passionate dissents about how the Second Amendment does not apply to private citizens.

Bluntly speaking, the Second Amendment survived by a single vote. Had one justice voted differently, the Second Amendment would have been erased from the Bill of Rights forever. Today in the Supreme Court, the right to bear arms hangs by a single vote. 

The next question the Supreme Court will decide is whether the Second Amendment is a “fundamental right” that applies to cities and states, thus preventing them from restricting gun rights.  Even the liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held earlier this year in Nordyke v. King that the Second Amendment is a fundamental right, yet Judge Sotomayor disagrees.

When Barack Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, it belied his flowery rhetoric about respecting our constitutional gun rights. Out of almost 200 federal appeals judges in this country, Judge Sotomayor is one of only six to weigh in (after the Heller case) to hold that the Second Amendment only limits federal actions. If your state or city chooses to ban all guns or take away the ones that you already have in your home for hunting and self-defense, Sonia Sotomayor says the Constitution can’t help you.  

This position becomes all the more radical when it’s revealed how she reached this conclusion. Only six judges have denied gun rights against the states. Of these, three did so in a recent Seventh Circuit case, NRA v. Chicago, writing a detailed opinion that the Second Amendment doesn’t apply to the states because they thought an old 1800s Supreme Court case tied their hands on the issue, and they commended the case up to the Supreme Court after long and scholarly consideration. Judge Sotomayor and two of her liberal colleagues, however, wrote only a single paragraph on the whole issue when deciding their own New York case, Maloney v. Cuomo. In one paragraph, she said the Second Amendment gives people no rights at all when it comes to state or city laws. She gave no explanation, and made no call for Supreme Court action.

Then we find that this has been a consistent belief for Sotomayor. In a case before her in 2004, she and her colleagues concluded that there is no fundamental right in the Second Amendment but provided no substantive analysis to justify this conclusion. Throughout her career, Judge Sotomayor’s record is one of consistent opposition to the private ownership of firearms.

America has almost 90 million gun owners who value their rights. And of these, no one does more to protect the Second Amendment than the four million members of the National Rifle Association.

I served as an officer of the NRA for nine years, including a two-year term as president. I saw NRA members turn the tide on Election Day 2000 to defeat Al Gore. We fought again to help defeat John Kerry in 2004. We can do the same with Sonia Sotomayor, if we call our U.S. Senators and tell them to vote against this anti-gun judge. No fewer than fourteen Democrat senators have solid records on the Second Amendment, and we must urge them to oppose this nominee.

Next year, the Supreme Court is likely to take up NRA v. Chicago, which will decide whether the Second Amendment applies to states and cities like it does the federal government. This case is as important as Heller, and will massively impact gun rights forever.

We already know where Judge Sotomayor stands. It’s time to tell the Senate, “Vote No! on Sonia Sotomayor.”

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