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Where’s the NRA?

Posted by Richard on April 23, 2005

The NRA is widely acknowledged to be one of the most effective lobbying organizations in Washington. And it has — or should have — a strong interest in how the 2nd Amendment is interpreted by the federal courts. So, why is it on the sidelines in the battle over judicial nominations?

This fight over Bush’s blocked appeals court nominees will determine whether future appeals court judges and Supreme Court justices are more like Breyer and Ginsberg, who believe in a "living Constitution" that changes over time, as decided by judges who may look to foreign laws for guidance, or more like Thomas and Scalia (emphasis added):

I am one of a small number of judges, small number of anybody: judges, professors, lawyers; who are known as originalists. Our manner of interpreting the Constitution is to begin with the text, and to give that text the meaning that it bore when it was adopted by the people. I’m not a strict constructionist, despite the introduction. I don’t like the term “strict construction”. I do not think the Constitution, or any text should be interpreted either strictly or sloppily; it should be interpreted reasonably. Many of my interpretations do not deserve the description “strict”. I do believe however, that you give the text the meaning it had when it was adopted.

Do the leaders of the NRA really believe that whether we have more Breyers or more Scalias is irrelevant to a 2nd Amendment rights organization???

But, the NRA ILA (Institute for Legislative Action) doesn’t even include judicial nominations in its list of the top 21 issues, and you’ll search in vain for a fact sheet or action alert on this issue.

If you’re an NRA member, and even if you’re not, you may want to ask the NRA-ILA why they’re AWOL on this critical issue.

UPDATE: Unfortunately, Gun Owners of America (GOA), which is usually a far better gun rights organization than the NRA, is actually lobbying in favor of the judicial nomination filibusters.

GOA says there is no way to get rid of the nomination filibusters without also getting rid of legislative filibusters. The ability to filibuster legislation, it claims, has been and will continue to be critical to preventing more gun control. And, GOA says there are better alternatives than the "nuclear option" (emphasis added):

No one is underestimating the importance of the federal courts and of pro-gun federal judges. And GOA has provided the Senate Leadership with procedural tools that would force the confirmation of Bush-nominated judges.

But the abolition of the right to filibuster, and the comprehensive gun registration and control which is sure to follow, is not a fair price for achieving the goal of a pro-gun Supreme Court — a goal which might not happen anyway, considering how awful many past Republican picks have been (e.g., Sandra Day O’Connor, David Souter, etc.). Yet Senate Republicans seem prepared to throw out the baby with the bath water.

They provide an extensive analysis of all the variations of the "nuclear" option — analysis I’m just not qualified to judge. But I don’t see any discussion of the "procedural tools" alternatives that they favor. So count me as not persuaded.

Claiming that massive gun control is inevitable in the absence of a filibuster is just scare tactics. Furthermore, I suspect that Bush nominees will be more like Scalia and Thomas than like O’Connor and Souter. If I’m right, a Supreme Court with 2 or 3 Bush appointees might well strike down gun control legislation as contrary to the plain language and original intent of the 2nd Amendment.

I’m not wedded to a specific mechanism of putting an end to the blocking of nominees. If there’s a better alternative than cutting off debate, I’m all ears.

In fact, my preferred method would be for citizens like us to exert grass-roots pressure on Senators like Salazar and persuade them to support an up-or-down vote. So why aren’t groups like the NRA and GOA, business organizations like the NAM and NFIB, and others who have a stake in this issue helping to create that pressure on the appropriate Senators? 

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