AG-Nominee Merrick Garland: 'I Don't Have an Opinion' on the Meaning of the Second Amendment

By Susan Jones | February 23, 2021 | 6:16am EST
 Judge Merrick Garland testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 22, 2021. (Photo by DREW ANGERER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Judge Merrick Garland testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 22, 2021. (Photo by DREW ANGERER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

( - Attorney-General nominee Merrick Garland, asked to explain the meaning of the Second Amendment, told Sen. Mike Lee on Monday, "I don't have an opinion on that question."

"Let's talk a little bit about the meaning of the Second Amendment,' Lee, a Utah Republican, told Garland at his confirmation hearing: "How do you view it, and do you agree ... that the Second Amendment right to bear arms certainly includes the right to carry operable firearms in public for self-defense?"

"So my view is totally controlled by the Heller opinion," Garland replied. “And in that case, Justice Scalia held that there was an individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense. In the subsequent McDonald case, the court said that was a fundamental right, which applied to the states as well.

“It is a right, as Justice Scalia said in the opinion, like all rights that is subject to some limitations. The court has not given us much more to work with at this point, and I do think...this is a matter that requires careful historical examination, which I have never done, and I certainly can't, you know, do sitting here for you. So I don't have an opinion on that question.

(The Second Amendment says: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”)

Lee followed up with another question: "Do you support universal background checks?" he asked Garland.

"Well, I do think that it's very important that we be careful that people who are entitled to have guns get the background check that allows them to have them, and that those who are not entitled and who we are concerned about because they are threats, because they are felons or for whatever reason barred by the law, that we have -- that there is an opportunity to determine that they not be given a gun," Garland said.

Lee asked Garland if he supports banning specific types of guns:

"Well, as I'm sure you know, the president is a strong supporter of gun control and has been an advocate all of his life, his professional life, on this question," Garland replied.

"The role of the Justice Department is to advance the policy program of the administration as long as it is consistent with the law. And as I said, so far, we have a little indication from the Supreme Court as to what this means, but we don't have a complete indication.

"And where there is room under the law for the president's policies to be pursued, then I think the president is entitled to pursue them."

Lee asked Garland if he supports policies that would make firearms manufacturers liable for damage caused by criminals misusing their products:

"I don't have a-- I believe that the president may have a position on this question," Garland said. "I have not thought myself deeply about this. I don't think it raises a Second Amendment issue itself, the question of the liability protection. But I have not addressed this in any way, and I need to think about this considerably more."

Later in the hearing,  Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) raised the "gun violence" issue, pointing to various mass shootings that he said were "preventable by common sense steps," including extreme risk protection orders.

Blumenthal noted that he and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have worked on a bill that would prevent individuals presumed to be dangerous from accessing firearms.

He asked Garland if he would support extreme risk protection orders, also known as red-flag laws.

"Yeah, I don't know the specifics of all of them, certainly with respect to emergency risk orders,” Garland replied. “When somebody is acting out in a way that suggests that they are going to use violence against another human being, we have to be very careful that they don't get a weapon in their hands.

“I don't know the specifics of how the legislation would do that. But, I--I do think that, yes...I don't mean to be non-supportive, but unless I know the specifics, it's very hard for me to make a calculation.”

Blumenthal said he understands that President Biden may be considering executive orders that would close the "Charleston loophole," redefine "the nature of a firearm to prevent ghost guns from populating the world, and other steps.

"And I hope you will consider using the existing authority through ATF and other agencies to take such action," Blumenthal told the attorney general nominee.

Also See:
Biden Calls for Gun Control: 'The Time to Act Is Now'

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