A Message from the President of Americans Against Gun Violence
February 3, 2017
12 Questions for Judge Gorsuch
On January 31, Donald Trump announced his nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. The next day, with NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre sitting at his side smiling like the cat who just swallowed the canary, Trump urged the Senate to rapidly confirm the nomination. There is scant information publicly available concerning Gorsuch’s views on gun control and the Second Amendment, but the NRA’s rapid and enthusiastic endorsement of Gorsuch suggests that the gun lobby knows more about his positions than the rest of us do.
We believe that Judge Gorsuch should publicly answer the following 12 questions before the Senate votes on whether to confirm him. (For more detailed information on the Gorsuch nomination, please visit the Facts and FAQ’s page of this website.)
- Do you believe that gun violence is a serious problem in the United States and that rates of firearm related deaths and injuries in our country are much higher than in every other high income democratic country of the world?
- Do you believe that in order to reduce rates of gun violence in our country to levels comparable to those in other high income democratic countries, we must adopt comparable gun control laws, including stringent regulation, if not complete bans, on private ownership of handguns and assault weapons?
- Do you agree with the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger who said in an interview on the PBS News Hour on December 16, 1991, that the misrepresentation of the Second Amendment by special interests as guaranteeing an individual right to own guns was “one of the greatest pieces of fraud on the American public’’ that he had seen in his lifetime?
- Do you agree that in 1939, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of United States v. Miller that the Second Amendment did not confer an individual right to own firearms unless such ownership bore “some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia?”
- Do you agree that in 1980, the Supreme Court reiterated in Lewis v. United States that, “The Second Amendment guarantees no right to keep and bear a firearm that does not have ‘some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia?’”
- Do you agree with the 16 distinguished historians and legal scholars who presented extensive evidence in their amici curiae brief in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller that the framers of the U.S. Constitution never intended for the Second Amendment to be interpreted as conferring an individual right to own any kind of a firearm outside of service in a well regulated militia?
- Do you agree that articles published in the legal literature between the time of the 1980 Lewis decision and the 2008 Heller decision arguing that the Second Amendment was intended to confer an individual right to own guns were written by a small group of individuals with financial ties to the gun lobby?
- Do you agree that there is no net protective value from private ownership of handguns?
- Do you agree that the 2008 Heller decision, in which five of nine Supreme Court justices, including the late Antonin Scalia, ruled that Dick Heller had a constitutional right to possess a handgun in his home “for protection” represented a radical reversal of over 200 years of prior legal precedent, including the Supreme Court’s rulings in Miller in 1939 and Lewis in 1980?
- Do you agree that the late Justice Antonin Scalia was guilty of flagrant “judicial activism” in writing the majority opinion in the Heller decision, effectively deleting the phrase, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state,” from the U.S. Constitution?
- Do you agree that Heller was wrongly decided?
- If you were confirmed as a Supreme Court justice and plaintiffs were to apply for a writ of certiorari in a case seeking to overturn the Heller decision, would you vote to hear the case?
The above questions may seem to be unusually pointed ones for a Supreme Court nominee, but questions 1-11 address issues on which any candidate for the position of a justice on the Supreme Court – and particularly for someone like Judge Gorsuch who professes to be a great admirer of the late Antonin Scalia - should be well informed. It’s almost certain that Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter, and Stevens who dissented in the 2008 Heller case, and Justice Sotomayor, who replaced the retiring Justice Souter in 2009, and who dissented in the related case of McDonald v. Chicago in 2010, would answer yes to all 12 questions without hesitation. To answer “no” to any of the questions 1-11 is to deny the truth, and to answer “no” to question 12 is to deny the need to right a serious wrong.
Of course, there are many other issues other than gun violence and the Second Amendment on which Judge Gorsuch should be carefully vetted. There is no other issue, though, that is more immediately life threatening - and more preventable - than gun violence. The 2008 Heller decision is a significant obstacle to the adoption of definitive gun control laws in our country comparable to regulations already in place in every other high income democratic country of the world – countries in which mass shootings are rare or nonexistent and overall rates of firearm related death and injuries are much lower than in the United States. For example, the rate of firearm related deaths in the United States is nearly 50 times higher than the rate in Great Britain, where private ownership of handguns is banned. Assuming that the adoption of firearm regulations comparable to those in Great Britain would result in similar rates of firearm related deaths in the United States, approximately 33,000 deaths would be prevented annually in our country.
Please contact your U.S. Senators and urge them to ask Judge Gorsuch to respond publicly to the twelve questions above, and particularly to questions 11 and 12. The questions are posted on the Facts and FAQ’s page of this website under the heading, “What is the position of Americans Against Gun Violence concerning the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch...?” A link with contact information for U.S. Senators is appended below.
In his nomination acceptance speech on January 31, Judge Gorsuch pledged to be a “faithful servant of the Constitution” and to serve with “impartiality and independence, collegiality and courage.” Assuming that Judge Gorsuch is a man of his word, he should have no hesitation in responding in the affirmative to all 12 of the above questions. If he does not respond in the affirmative, we believe that his nomination as a Supreme Court justice should not be confirmed.
Thanks for your support of Americans Against Gun Violence. If you haven't already done so, please go to the Join/Donate page of this website to become a charter member and to make an additional donation if you're able. Please also visit the Facts and FAQ’s page of the Americans Against Gun Violence website to learn about other actions that you can take right now to help stop the shameful epidemic of gun violence that afflicts our country. We cannot call ourselves a great nation until the day when rates of firearm related deaths and injuries in our country are at or below the rates in other high income democratic countries. I look forward to working with you to make that day come sooner rather than later.
Bill Durston, MD
President, Americans Against Gun Violence
Click on this link for contact information for your U.S. Senators.
Note: Dr. Durston is a retired emergency physician, a combat veteran, and a former expert marksman in the U.S. Marine Corps, decorated for courage under fire during the Vietnam War.