Gun owners and hunters should see promise in President Donald Trump’s nominee for the next associate Supreme Court justice.
Judge Neil Gorsuch was nominated by President Trump Tuesday in a White House prime-time announcement. Trump promised a nominee “very much in the mold of” the late Justice Antonin Scalia, the author of the 2008 Heller decision in which the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to affirm the individual right to keep and bear arms.
Gun rights advocates hoped for a justice who would serve on the bench just as Scalia did – strictly interpreting the Constitution and considering the law as the Framers intended. Gorsuch is that and more when it comes to filling the seat left vacant by Scalia’s death. The 49-year-old, like Scalia, is an originalist. He is currently serving on the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver, to which he was confirmed by unanimous Senate voice vote. He was educated at Columbia, Harvard Law School and earned a doctorate from Oxford University. He went on to clerk for former Supreme Court Justice Byron White and current Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Gorsuch said he was humbled to be nominated, especially to replace such a towering figure in American justice. “Justice Scalia was a lion of the law,” he said during the White House announcement.
Gorsuch wrote “the Second Amendment protects and individual’s right and may not be infringed lightly,” in the case of United States v. Games-Perez, “there is a long tradition of widespread gun ownership by private individuals in this country.”
There are other echoes of Scalia’s judicial philosophy in which outdoorsmen and women can take heart. Like Scalia, the native-Coloradoan enjoys hunting and fishing. Scalia was known for his passion for the shooting sports, even to the point of introducing fellow Justice Elena Kagan to the outdoors. They often hunted birds together and she spoke of a hunting trip to Wyoming with Scalia, where she was able to harvest a deer.
Gorsuch, too, is an avid outdoorsman. He raises horses outside of Denver, hunts, skis and is a fly-fisherman. Prof. Michael W. McConnell served alongside Gorsuch on the bench before taking his current role teaching at Stanford University. He described him as a “Westerner,” adding, “He’s an outdoorsman, and the Supreme Court needs a little bit more geographical diversity.”
Gorsuch faces confirmation by a 60-vote majority of the Senate to fill the gap left vacant when Scalia died while on quail hunting trip in Texas nearly a year ago. Former U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte will serve as sherpa, guiding Gorsuch to meet senators prior to confirmation hearings.