It’s no secret to America’s law-abiding gun owners that one of the most important aspects of the upcoming presidential election is the future of the U.S. Supreme Court—which is, indeed, inextricably tied to the very future of freedom in our country.
When the next president takes the oath of office in January, Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be 83, Anthony M. Kennedy will be 80 and Stephen G. Breyer will be 78. That, combined with the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia in February, means the next president will likely appoint three or more justices over the next four or eight years, shaping the court for the next generation.
While presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton don’t agree on many things, the kind of jurist they would likely nominate for the highest court in the land probably separates them more than any other issue. In fact, just looking at their opinion of the late Justice Scalia easily makes this point. “Justice Scalia was a remarkable person and a brilliant Supreme Court Justice” — Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump
“Justice Scalia was a remarkable person and a brilliant Supreme Court justice,” Trump said of the justice who wrote the majority opinion in the landmark D.C. v. Heller case, which affirmed an individual right to bear arms. “His career was defined by his reverence for the Constitution and his legacy of protecting Americans’ most cherished freedoms. He was a justice who did not believe in legislating from the bench and he is a person whom I held in the highest regard and will always greatly respect his intelligence and conviction to uphold the Constitution of our country.”
For Clinton’s part, she says she admired the man, but not his philosophy. “I did not hold Justice Scalia’s views, but he was a dedicated public servant who brought energy and passion to the bench.”
Hitting closer to home for gun owners, Clinton has said the Supreme Court, with Scalia’s leadership, is “wrong on the Second Amendment.” She called the Heller decision “terrible.” And most recently, she refused—twice—to answer an interview question as to whether she believes the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms.
Such statements are very concerning to those who believe in individual freedom. They are also likely what prompted Trump to issue an important challenge to Clinton when speaking to about 10,000 NRA members at the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum in Louisville, Ky., last month.
Trump, who had earlier that week released a list of potential Supreme Court nominees, said his list was created, first and foremost, based on constitutional principles with input from highly respected conservatives and Republican Party leadership.
“I can’t stress this in any stronger fashion, whoever the next president is will appoint from three to five judges,” Trump said. “And if it’s Hillary, she will, as part of it, abolish the Second Amendment.
“I’d like to call for Hillary Clinton to put together a list also. Because I’d like to see what that list consists of. And you will see that it’s day and night. It won’t be good for the people in this room. And it won’t be good for our country.”
Trump’s list reads like a who’s-who of potential Supreme Court justices that would stay true to the Constitution and not attempt to legislate from the bench. His list includes Steven Colloton, a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit; Allison Eid, an associate justice of the Colorado Supreme Court; Raymond Gruender, a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit; Thomas Hardiman, a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit; Raymond Kethledge, a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit; Joan Larsen, an associate justice of the Michigan Supreme Court; Thomas Lee, an associate justice of the Utah Supreme Court; William H. Pryor Jr., a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit; David Stras, an associate justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court; Diane Sykes, a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit; and Don Willett, a justice of the Texas Supreme Court.
For Clinton’s part, she’s keeping mum on who she might nominate to the highest court in the land. What we do know is she has said she has “a bunch of litmus tests” for court nominees. Combine that with her statement that “The Supreme Court is wrong on the Second Amendment” and the Heller decision was “terrible,” and it’s not hard to realize whoever she nominates will be no friend of the Second Amendment or American gun owners. For Clinton’s part, she’s keeping mum on who she might nominate to the highest court in the land.
Just look at her reaction to President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Garland is no friend to the Second Amendment, as we have well documented.
Clinton, of course, seems to be a Garland fan, calling him a nominee “with considerable experience on the bench and in public service, a brilliant legal mind, and a long history of bipartisan support and admiration.” Compare that to her statement about Scalia—“I did not hold Justice Scalia’s views …”—and it’s easy to see what kind of justices she will most likely consider.
Even Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea, realizes how dramatically potential Supreme Court nominations separate her mom and Trump. At a recent campaign event in Maryland, Chelsea Clinton said Justice Scalia’s death could lead to more pro-gun-control rulings in the Supreme Court—especially if Hillary Clinton wins this November’s election. “… [M]y mom also recognizes the role the Supreme Court has when it comes to gun control. With Justice Scalia on the bench … sometimes the Court upheld local and state gun-control measures as being compliant with the Second Amendment and sometimes the Court struck them down,” Chelsea Clinton said.
Saying that Brady and Bloomberg’s Moms—both Hillary endorsers—believe the next ruling on gun control will be definitive, Chelsea continued: “My mom is the only person running for president who not only constantly makes that connection, but also has a strong record on gun control and standing up to the NRA.”
While Clinton hasn’t listed potential nominees like Trump has, we can speculate on one potential Clinton Supreme Court nominee—President Obama. First mentioned on a satire website last year, there are many reasons why such a nomination is not as outlandish as it seems at first blush.
Obama is a hero to liberals, and stands solidly against the Second Amendment. Jeffrey Rosen, a law professor at George Washington University and author of The Supreme Court: The Personalities and Rivalries That Defined America, even wrote in the Washington Post that Obama has temperamental qualities that make him “ideally suited to lead the liberal wing of the Supreme Court.”
Obama’s love for the limelight, his attitude that he knows what is right for everyone else, and his desire to finish his dream of “fundamentally transforming” America would seem to make a spot on the court quite interesting to him. And Hillary’s need for the president’s support going into the height of the election season could make the promise of a Supreme Court seat prompt Obama to wholeheartedly campaign for her.
One thing is clear: Of all the reasons for all law-abiding gun owners to reject Clinton and vote for Trump, none are more important than conferring the power to decide who will sit on the highest court of the land. A vote for Clinton—or an ill-conceived decision to simply sit this one out—could result in judges who share Clinton’s beliefs on the Second Amendment shaping the future of our country’s freedom for generations.