President Trump’s pick to fill the long-gapped opening in the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, has been fielding questions from the Senate this week in a confirmation hearing that could see him appointed to the highest court in the land.
Throughout the hearing, Democrats and Republicans have quizzed Gorsuch on his understanding of legal precedents, his personal politics, and how the two may intertwine. Thus far, his answers have prompted some debate along ideological lines, but he has successfully evaded adding much to the drama that has followed much of the hotly divided parties’ efforts to confirm Trump’s cabinet appointees by remaining level-headed and emphasizing the law over personal beliefs.
Earlier this week, one of the more contentious subjects of U.S. law, the 2nd Amendment, was brought up by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein. During her questioning, she brought up historic cases regarding the right to own and carry firearms, and statements issued by previous judges regarding such weapons.
Although recognized as a conservative, Gorsuch has had little to say in the public eye regarding the 2nd Amendment in the recent past, prompting many to pay close attention to the potential Supreme Court justice’s responses. The Senator first asked Gorsuch about his position on the landmark 2008 case, the District of Columbia v. Heller – a 5-4 decision that protected an individual’s right to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful pursuits. Feinstein asked Gorsuch, who is slated to replace conservative justice Antonin Scalia, if he could agree with a statement made by Scalia regarding the limits of the 2nd Amendment. Gorsuch replied by debating a bit with the senator, emphasizing that it isn’t about his opinion on the topic, it’s about the law.
In particular, Senator Feinstein steered the first question toward utilizing Justice Scalia’s statement as precedent for a ban on “weapons that are most useful in military service,” citing the M16, a weapon that is not available for civilian purchase under most circumstances, as one example.
“Senator, Heller makes clear the standard that we judges are supposed to apply. The question is whether it is a gun in common use for self-defense, and that may be subject to reasonable regulation. That’s the test as I understand it.” Gorsuch replied. “There is lots of ongoing litigation about which weapons qualify under those standards, and I can’t prejudge that litigation.”
Senator Feinstein replied by saying, “I’m just asking you do you agree with the statement. Yes or no?”
“Whatever is in Heller is the law. And I follow the law,” replied Gorsuch.
When Senator Feinstein asked him once again if he will agree or disagree with her line of questioning, Gorsuch explained his position clearly.
“It is not a matter of agreeing or disagreeing, senator, respectfully. It is a matter of it being the law. And my job is to apply and enforce the law.”
Although clearly disliked by some Democratic lawmakers, many have seen Trump’s pick as, not a moderate choice, but a reasonable one, citing his experience as a federal appellate judge in Colorado, serving on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals and his strict adherence to the language of the Constitution in the execution of his duties.
It remains to be seen if Gorsuch will be confirmed by the Senate, though it seems likely. On what many see as the most important question the Colorado judge could answer, whether or not he would hold President Trump accountable for any potentially illegal actions, he stated clearly, “I have no problem ruling against a person or any party.”
Watch Senator Feinstein and Judge Gorsuch discuss the 2nd Amendment below.
Image courtesy of ABC News