How many times can one remember where the National Rifle Association and the New York Times agree on an issue? One count them on the fingers of one hand, and have a few left over. However, when it comes to Barack Obama’s pick to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, an unexpected synchronicity occurs … of sorts, anyway.
The NRA’s legislative arm accused Obama of showing “utter contempt for the Second Amendment and law-abiding gun owners” with the nomination of Merrick Garland:
“With Justice Scalia’s tragic passing, there is no longer a majority of support among the justices for the fundamental, individual right to own a firearm for self-defense. Four justices believe law-abiding Americans have that right – and four justices do not. President Obama has nothing but contempt for the Second Amendment and law-abiding gun owners,” Chris Cox, executive director of NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement, remarking upon Obama’s past Supreme Court nominees and their own records on the issue.
Cox concluded that “a basic analysis of Merrick Garland’s judicial record shows that he does not respect our fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense.”
“Therefore, the National Rifle Association, on behalf of our five million members and tens of millions of supporters across the country, strongly opposes the nomination of Merrick Garland for the U.S. Supreme Court,” Cox said in the statement.
The statement follows the conservative Judicial Crisis Network announcing an additional $2 million ad campaign in opposition to Garland. Carrie Severino, who heads the group, pointed to Garland’s “history of general hostility to the Second Amendment,” in particular his decision to vote in favor of reviewing a ruling on a restrictive gun law that had already been struck down. The Supreme Court ultimately affirmed the circuit court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller.
Of course, Obama has made gun control one of his final-year crusades. He partnered with CNN on a town hall forum in an attempt to put political pressure on Congress to pass more laws restricting ownership and sales, only to be met by Kimberly Corban and others who pushed the President off his message. The White House would never admit it, but it’s safe to assume that broadening the legal avenues for gun-control legislation would have been a litmus test for this nomination.
However, it wouldn’t have been the only liberal issue Obama considered in the appointment, and Garland clearly passes muster on the rest. The New York Times hailed Garland’s nomination as the opportunity to move the center of the Supreme Court to its furthest-Left position in a lifetime:
There are two ways to think about the change. One is to compare Judge Garland, President Obama’s nominee, with Justice Scalia. The second is to think about how Mr. Garland might shift the court’s balance of power. His addition would make the justice at the center of the court more liberal than at any point in nearly 50 years. …
We don’t yet know exactly how Mr. Garland would vote if he joined the court. But scholars believe that he will be substantially more liberal than Justice Scalia was. According to a ranking of Supreme Court and appeals court judges, Mr. Garland is expected to be ideologically similar to Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama’s previous picks for the court. …
If his past record is predictive, and Mr. Garland earns confirmation and votes with the court’s current liberal bloc, the new median justice will become Stephen Breyer, the most liberal median justice since 1937, when the scholarly rankingsbegan. If Mr. Garland is more conservative than Justice Breyer but more liberal than Justice Kennedy, Mr. Garland would become the new median, the most liberal in nearly 50 years.
“For the first time in decades, the court might swing to a Democratic court,” said Lee Epstein, a professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis who measures and studies voting patterns on the court. “It’s a major moment.”
Indeed it is — and that’s why Senate Republicans have remained firm on their resolve to force the nomination process into the next presidency. If voters want that kind of dramatic shift in the Supreme Court, they can elect a president who will provide it and a Senate that would confirm it in the upcoming election. Voters elected a Senate in 2014 that would block these kinds of dramatic initiatives during Obama’s lame-duck period. This Senate should stick by that mandate.