John Feinblatt is president of Everytown for Gun Safety.
By this point, we’re all familiar with the National Rifle Association’s political playbook.
We’ve seen their leaders misinform and exaggerate before, in debates about legislation, candidates for office and judicial nominees. While their tactics might be tried and true, they typically bear little relationship to the truth.
Their latest campaign, against Judge Merrick Garland, is no different.
Garland is the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Regarded as the second-highest court in the land, the D.C. Circuit has served as a steppingstone to the Supreme Court for former justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February, along with Justices John G. Roberts Jr., Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Clarence Thomas , among others.
Here’s something else about Garland’s résumé. Nothing about it sheds any light whatsoever on how he views guns or the Second Amendment.
Of course, NRA headquarters wants you to believe something different. In a Post op-ed last weekend, the NRA’s chief lobbyist, Chris W. Cox, portrayed Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court as nothing less than an existential threat to lawful gun ownership.
The evidence for such a claim doesn’t exist. The truth is, appointing a successor to Scalia will not threaten our Second Amendment rights.
It’s settled law. The court’s landmark 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller recognized an individual right to keep and use a handgun for self-defense in the home. Just Monday, the Supreme Court confirmed that Heller remains good law, and it did so unanimously — giving the lie to the NRA’s repeated claim that the fate of the Second Amendment depends on the vote of a single justice.
The NRA’s leaders falsely portray the right to gun ownership as on the precipice. They’re just as alarmist about Garland’s record. Again, their claims are baseless.
To paint Garland as an opponent of gun rights, they distort a basic procedural vote that he cast in a gun case before the D.C. Circuit. In fact, Garland didn’t issue a ruling. He didn’t even say or write anything about the merits of the case. And think about the company he was keeping. Judge A. Raymond Randolph, a George H.W. Bush appointee and outspoken conservative, was among three judges who joined Garland in the same vote.
NRA leaders also say that Garland voted to uphold that classic gun lobby bugaboo: a federal “registry” of gun owners. In fact, Garland simply joined an opinion upholding a Justice Department rule that allowed for the temporary retention of data from the national gun-sale background-check system. The FBI kept the data for no more than six months to ensure the system’s accuracy and integrity. Then it destroyed the data, in keeping with the law. The “registry”? It doesn’t exist.
In short, nothing in his record suggests that a Justice Garland wouldn’t respect the Second Amendment and uphold the Constitution. But when it comes to vetting high-profile judicial nominees, the NRA’s leaders have shown they’re willing to look past the facts.
Previously, when Justice Sonia Sotomayor was nominated, NRA officials came up with a creative rationale for opposing her. Following what was at the time the Supreme Court precedent, Sotomayor had joined an opinion that upheld a state’s ban on nunchucks. Sotomayor was practicing what’s called “judicial restraint,” and nunchucks aren’t guns, but no matter — the gun lobby branded her an enemy of the Second Amendment.
Next nominee, same tactic. Justice Elena Kagan had no meaningful record on gun issues, but that didn’t stop the NRA from misrepresenting her experience and opposing her nomination.
Now it’s Garland’s turn to be a (not very convincing) threat to our Constitution and freedoms.
If the NRA’s leaders were simply ginning up a no-compromise base and using the nomination process to fund-raise, then we could dismiss their rhetoric as business as usual and ignore them. But when the Senate majority leader says it would be unimaginable to confirm a nominee from President Obama who is opposed by the NRA, that’s when the rest of us ought to set the record straight.
So don’t believe the hype. The NRA’s partisan political arm doesn’t represent the views of the vast majority of Americans.