OAKLAND, Calif., Jan. 15, 2009Today the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing for the controversial nomination of Eric Holder to the position of Attorney General of the United States.
Independent Institute Research Fellow and attorney Stephen Halbrook is among the witnesses testifying, arguing that Holders reputation as a steadfast opponent of Second Amendment rights makes him an unfit candidate for the job.
Halbrook, author of the new Institute book The Founders Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms, filed an amicus brief on behalf of more than 300 members of Congress in the recent Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller. But the landmark decision, affirming an individual right in the Second Amendment, conflicts with Holders track record, claims Halbrook. In fact, Holder joined in a brief arguing that the Second Amendment only concerns the States operation of a well-regulated militia and does not protect an individual right, a position at odds with President-elect Barack Obamas approval of Heller.
When Mr. Holder served as Deputy Attorney General (19972001) and Acting Attorney General (2001), the Department of Justice implemented policies hostile to Second Amendment rights, states Halbrook in his prepared written testimony. In the establishment of the national instant criminal background check system (NICS) in 1998, the Department claimed the authority to keep records on lawful firearm purchasers for an alleged audit log for six months, despite the laws requirement that such records be destroyed and its prohibition on registration of firearm owners.
In that same period, the Department circulated draft legislation that would be included in a bill introduced by Congressman John Conyers as H.R. 1768 (106th Cong., 1999). The bill would have: Imposed felony penalties on a person who planned a gun show without registering with and reporting to ATF; made it unlawful for persons under age 21 to possess firearms, even though they vote, serve on juries, and serve in the military; imposed a 3-day waiting period, and limited handgun purchases to one per month.
After terrorists struck with box cutters on 9/11, Mr. Holder responded with an op ed arguing for background checks on all gun sales, which would have extended felony penalties to the otherwise innocent, intrastate conduct of law-abiding private individuals. He added: Congress should also pass legislation that would give the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms a record of every firearm sale. Under the guise of combating terrorism, every American firearm owner would thus be registered with the government, Halbrook states.
Continuing to reveal Holder as a staunch opponent of the Second Amendment, Halbrook concludes, Eric Holder has taken a constricted view of Second Amendment rights. Millions of law-abiding Americans exercise the right to keep and bear arms. Mr. Holders opinion is that the people have no such right unless they are commanded to exercise it in a formal militia, which renders the right meaningless. . . . Many Americans have reason to be uneasy about Mr. Holders nomination for Attorney General. They deserve to have a person in this role who is committed to upholding all parts of the Constitution, including the Second Amendment. Unfortunately, Mr. Holder has proven himself not to be that person.
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