January 23, 2009

Gillibrand, Guns & Judges

Statement by CFJ Executive Director Curt Levey on the appointment of Rep. Kristen Gillibrand (D - NY) to the U.S. Senate:

“The Committee for Justice applauds Gov. David Paterson’s appointment of Rep. Kristen Gillibrand to fill the Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton. Because she is a Blue Dog Democrat and a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights, we believe she will be an important ally in CFJ’s central mission of ensuring that the men and women appointed to the federal bench respect the rule of law and refrain from judicial activism.

“In the past, President Obama has spoken approvingly of judges who follow their hearts rather than the law – in other words, activist judges. If that’s the type of judges he appoints, then – with only 41 or 42 Republicans in the U.S. Senate – it will be very important to have Democratic senators willing to stand up and say no to those appointments. There is good reason to believe that Kristen Gillibrand will be one of those senators.

“We are encouraged by the fact that Rep. Gillibrand represents a largely rural district and is a member of the Democratic Blue Dog Coalition, a group of relatively conservative House Democrats with a mission of ‘appealing to the mainstream values of the American public.’ She undoubtedly understands that, once you get away from the big cities and the coastal intellectual elite, there is very little support for the ultra-liberal agenda that motivates the advocates of judicial activism. That’s true whether you’re talking about gay marriage, racial preferences, the rights of terrorists, abolishing the death penalty, or banishing religion from the public square.

“And it is especially true when it comes to gun rights. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller decision striking down the District of Columbia’s handgun ban and empowering Americans to use the courts to protect their Second Amendment rights, gun owners have emerged as perhaps the most powerful constituency against liberal judicial activism. It is a constituency that Kristen Gillibrand understands and embraces. As her website states,
‘Congresswoman Gillibrand grew up in a family of hunters and strongly supports the rights of all hunters and gun owners. She has been an ardent opponent of legislation that will curb the Second Amendment for responsible gun owners and currently has a 100% voting record with the National Rifle Association (NRA).’
“Court decisions over the next several years will be critical to preserving, expanding, and defining the rights of gun owners. The Supreme Court will be called upon to make it clear that individual Second Amendment rights apply in the states as well as in the District of Columbia, and the lower federal courts will be busy determining exactly what gun restrictions Heller allows. But as long as Barack Obama serves as President, the Supreme Court will be just a heartbeat away from reversing Heller and taking away the Second Amendment rights it just recognized.

“With so much at stake, we are confident Kristen Gillibrand won’t sit still if President Obama attempts to install an activist majority on the Supreme Court or to pack the lower federal courts with liberal judicial activists. We hope that President Obama’s encouraging words of moderation and bipartisanship will govern his judicial appointments. But if he disappoints, it is good to know that he’ll have to deal with Senator Gillibrand.”