Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearings are, like so many other hearings, a bit of a mess. Unfortunately, they’ve also been more than a little light on the Second Amendment.
With so many gun cases in the pipeline for potential Supreme Court review, I’d have thought senators would have spent more than a little bit of time asking Jackson about her views.
Unfortunately, some of those comments have been a little sparse.
In fact, before yesterday, this was about all we had.
Judge Jackson on crime and guns. The Supreme Court nominee’s judicial record on firearms is scant — in her brief time on the D.C. Court of Appeals, she hasn’t issued a ruling on gun rights. But during her second day of confirmation hearings, Jackson reaffirmed her view on Second Amendment precedent and fleshed out her perspective on public safety issues:
- On the Second Amendment: “Do you believe the individual right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right,” Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa asked the nominee. “Senator,” she responded, “the Supreme Court has established that the individual right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right.” Her answer echoes a written response she gave during her confirmation hearing last year for the D.C. Court of Appeals (see question 12).
Now, this is, ultimately, good news. She accepts that the Second Amendment is the law and protects an individual right. Considering some past nominees, that’s ultimately a good thing.
But then it seems Judge Jackson’s opinions got clarified just a bit.
Senator Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) asks Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to explain what the Supreme Court has said about the Second Amendment. Jackson says the Court found an "individual, fundamental right to keep and bear arms in the home."
— Stephen Gutowski (@StephenGutowski) March 23, 2022
See, she had me right up until those last three words.
To be fair, the Heller decision actually did revolve around the right for self-defense in the home–the decision overturned a law that required guns kept in the home to be rendered useless for self-defense–but that doesn’t make those words somehow more comforting.
So she’s not exactly wrong.
The good news is that this wasn’t necessarily a reflection of her own views on the Second Amendment. That doesn’t make me any more comfortable with those three words, mind you, but they’re not inaccurate.
Unfortunately, that’s just about all we have. She was asked about NYSRPA v. Bruen, which she declined to answer, and that’s been pretty much it.
It’s possible that with the current makeup of the Court they’re not overly worried about where a liberal justice may land on the issue, figuring her opinion will be largely irrelevant in such a case. I’m not sure I’d actually trust that, but who knows?
Either way, as her confirmation continues, I expect we’ll hear a whole lot of strange continue to come out of the hearings. My hope is that we’ll get something more substantive on the issue of the Second Amendment as the current makeup isn’t likely to be eternal.
While I don’t really see Jackson not being confirmed, we’d still do well to vet her on issues like the Second Amendment beyond just a cursory passthrough of the subject. As it stands now, we really don’t know a whole lot about her views on whether the Second Amendment is up for restriction and, if so, how much or why it’s worthy of restrictions we’d never tolerate on another constitutionally protected right.
I expect better out of our Senators.