Donald Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court is generally regarded as a supporter of the Second Amendment and gun rights.
Vigorously praised by the National Rifle Association, Neil Gorsuch “has endorsed Second Amendment rights,” says FiveThirtyEight. However, there is one ruling that gives some conservatives concern, relating to when police can disarm those carrying firearms.
Although Gorsuch’s positions on some hot button issues – like abortion – are less clear, his stances on the Second Amendment and guns are clearer.
Trump chose Gorsuch, 49 – a Denver appellate judge who is known as an “originalist” – to replace the late conservative justice Antonin Scalia.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The NRA Applauded Gorsuch’s Nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court
In a statement, the National Rifle Association made it clear the group is thrilled with Trump’s choice of Gorsuch for the court.
“President Trump has made an outstanding choice in nominating Judge Gorsuch for the U.S. Supreme Court. He has an impressive record that demonstrates his support for the Second Amendment,” said Chris W. Cox, Executive Director, NRA-Institute for Legislative Action, in a statement.
“We urge the Senate to swiftly confirm Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, just as it did in confirming him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit by a unanimous voice vote.”
2. Gorsuch Wrote That an Individual’s Right to Bear Arms Can Not Be ‘Infringed Lightly’
One reason the NRA likes Gorsuch is because he once wrote in a legal opinion: “The Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to own firearms and may not be infringed lightly.”
The case involved a man who claimed he didn’t know he was a felon in an illegal gun possession case.
3. Gorsuch Has Supported the Second Amendment in Legal Opinions
According to the Charlotte Observer, “Gorsuch has supported the Second Amendment in his case readings,” although some of the cases only “tangentially involve gun rights.”
For example, in the 2012 case, United States v. Games-Perez, Gorsuch also argued that a felon “needed to know not only that he possessed the gun but also that he was a felon for the criminal law to apply,” according to the newspaper.
More critically for those trying to assess where Gorsuch stands on gun rights issues, “his dissent included a defense of the Second Amendment, in which he wrote, “gun possession is often lawful and sometimes even protected as a matter of constitutional right.” But he did question whether a felon could be wrongfully imprisoned for possessing a gun, according to the decision.
4. Some Conservatives Are Concerned About a Gun Case Involving Police Power
The American Thinker noted that Gorsuch had joined in the majority in a case called United States v. Rodriguez. The case in New Mexico involved a police officer disarming a man who was carrying a concealed handgun. The officer disarmed Rodriguez before determining he was a convicted felon who didn’t have a right to carry, wrote the American Thinker.
The magazine expressed concern that the officer’s actions would have been upheld even if Rodriguez had been lawfully carrying. “According to the 10th Circuit’s opinion, the police are justified in forcibly disarming every armed citizen based on nothing more than the presence of a concealed firearm. This allows the police to treat every law-abiding gun owner like a criminal,” the site reported.
5. Gorsuch Is Considered to Be Similar in Philosophy to Scalia, Who Was Extraordinarily Influential on Gun Issues
When describing the type of justice he wanted, Trump had said he wanted someone in Scalia’s mold who “will respect the constitution of the United States. And I think that this is so important–also, the Second Amendment which is totally under siege by people like Hillary Clinton.”
Gorsuch is widely described to be similar to Scalia in intellectualism and philosophy. Scalia was a lynchpin on gun issues. According to Newsweek, in 2008’s Heller 5-4 decision, “Scalia wrote a landmark opinion for the majority of the court that upheld an individual’s right to bear arms. His ruling infuriated liberals and settled the questions, at least for now, about whether the phrase ‘well regulated militia’ in the Second Amendment means people” have an individual right to bear arms. Scalia found that they do.
During his nomination press conference, Gorsuch spoke fondly and emotionally about the late justice, calling him a lion of the law.
Gorsuch is described as both an originalist and textualist. As The Washington Post explains them, “Like Scalia, Gorsuch is a proponent of originalism — meaning that judges should attempt to interpret the words of the Constitution as they were understood at the time they were written — and a textualist who considers only the words of the law being reviewed, not legislators’ intent or the consequences of the decision.”