On Tuesday, Jan. 31, after several days of outcry and vehement protest over the Trump Muslim ban ― which bars the entrance of Syrian refugees into the country indefinitely, as well as temporary bans on entrance from six other majority Muslim nations ― the president announced the first Supreme Court pick of his tenure. The announcement was originally planned for two days later, on Thursday, but amid a hugely negative news cycle, it's not hard to see why the Trump team wanted to change the topic. So, here's a question: Does Neil Gorsuch support gun control, or will this be the sort of conservative justice whose opinions cut against such reforms?
It's not hard to see why this would be on people's minds, because in addition to massively impactful social issues like reproductive rights and LGBTQ rights and protections, the ongoing arguments over gun control are very likely to end up before the Supreme Court in the years to come.
The last major Supreme Court ruling on the Second Amendment, District of Columbia v. Heller, ended with the pro-gun side coming out on top. The late arch-conservative justice Antonin Scalia sided with a 5-4 majority in striking down D.C.'s gun regulations, and the presence of gun control restrictions within federal enclaves more broadly.
So, what can you expect from Gorsuch if another major Second Amendment case comes before the court?
Gorsuch's demonstrated record regarding gun control is somewhat thinner than one might expect, although his judicial philosophy is very suggestive. More so than Thomas Hardiman, one of the other names that was floated as a possible pick, Gorsuch is broadly viewed as being cut from the Scalia cloth, a constitutional originalist who interprets the nation's founding text by what its authors intended the words to mean back in the later 18th century, rather than reinterpreting them against the backdrop of modern times. This is a philosophy that typically cuts against carved-out rights for historically oppressed groups like women and people of color, and favors a maximal interpretation of the right to bear arms.
It's worth noting the the gravity of the gun rights argument in judicial circles has recently trended in favor of less regulation, not more ― the 2008 D.C. v. Heller decision marked a rightward shift in terms of the high court's attitude toward gun ownership, and as it becomes more and more ideologically conservative, that trend figures to continue.
Of course, the next big question is how vigorous a resistance Senate Democrats will put up against Trump's pick. One senator, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, has already announced his intention to filibuster the pick regardless of who it is, a reflection of the still-simmering outrage many Democrats and progressives feel over the treatment of former president Barack Obama's pick to replace Scalia, Judge Merrick Garland.
Rather than so much as hold a hearing on Garland, the GOP held the seat open for nearly a year, banking everything on Trump winning the election and shredding commonly-held norms of congressional behavior in the process. And despite the fact that such a move might cause Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to abolish the filibuster outright, there's no doubt that many on the progressive left are eagerly demanding precisely that kind of a drag-out fight.