President Barack Obama finally announced the man he was nominating to be fill Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court, and by most indications, it’s a choice he’s serious about getting through a Republican-controlled Senate.
Merrick Garland, the chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, is considered a solid moderate on legal matters and has earned plenty of praise from Republicans.
Republican Utah Sen. [crscore]Orrin Hatch[/crscore] even publicly said that Garland would be a good high court pick for Obama as he is both a moderate and “a fine man.”
But what makes the D.C. justice a moderate on the bench?
Garland’s tough-on-crime reputation is the top argument for his supposed moderation.
He also voted in favor of a 2003 opinion that effectively kept Guantanamo Bay detainees from trying to seek release in civilian courts, a position that should go over well with Republican foreign policy hawks.
In addition, Garland has spoken out against judicial activism — a phenomenon that conservatives love to rail against.
But, as The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Blake Neff has noted, his reputation for moderation is more likely a result of a dull career that has rarely come in contact with controversial issues.
However, there is one politically-charged issue Garland has come across in his legal career and his record on the matter should concern conservatives.
In two separate court cases, Judge Garland voted in a way that favored gun control provisions.
As a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals justice, he ruled against the NRA and in favor of the Clinton administration in 2000 on a practice that allowed the federal government to retain background information on gun owners. Second Amendment advocates consider this program a precursor to a more-developed federal gun registry, an idea strongly backed by liberals.
Back in 2007, Garland voted in favor of his court rehearing the pivotal case that dealt with the capital’s restrictive handgun ban. The three-judge panel, which did not include Garland, struck down the ban, but after the ruling the now-SCOTUS nominee voted in favor of having the case reheard by the entire court. He lost in the matter and later on the Supreme Court cemented the legal consensus against the gun control measure. (RELATED: Is Merrick Garland Actually A Moderate?)
While neither of these decisions shows for certain that Garland is a proponent of gun control, it does show leanings toward that persuasion and, considering the man nominating him to the court, it is very probable he will vote in favor of Obama’s agenda on the matter. Additionally, a few legal experts have stated the possible Supreme Court justice harbors a “strong hostility to gun owner rights.”
The president has stated multiple times that his greatest frustration while commander in chief is his inability to change America’s gun laws. The Senate failed to pass White House-backed legislation in 2013 following the Sandy Hook massacre, which likely convinced Obama he wasn’t going to get gun control measures enacted through Congress.
The only hope for Obama and liberals while Republicans control the House of Representatives is to turn to the courts for help in promoting gun control laws.
Picking a moderate with a humdrum record and the implied support of at least one prominent Republican is a smart move for Obama. Instead of trying to nominating a radical from a demographic Democrats need to turn out in November, the president went with an old white guy who has a shot of getting confirmed.
In spite of Senate Majority Leader [crscore]Mitch McConnell[/crscore]’s protests, there are probably enough Republicans — particularly ones up for re-election in blue or purple states — who are willing to vote for Garland.
With assurances that he’s a “moderate” and little record to prove otherwise, centrist Republicans could be easily swayed to back Obama’s nominee — even though they would completely forget how one of the Court’s present arch-liberals, Stephen Breyer, was similarly sold to the public as a moderate by then-President Bill Clinton in 1994.
The NRA has already expressed opposition to Garland, and if the group and other gun rights advocates want to halt his nomination, they’re going to have to hammer every Republican senator to follow in line behind McConnell’s refusal to grant a hearing to any Obama nominee.
Otherwise, the Senate could be confirming the Trojan horse justice who casts the deciding vote in a future that fundamentally changes American gun laws forever.