On January 10 and 11, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held the confirmation hearing for President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for United States Attorney General, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). Throughout his distinguished career in public service, which includes 12 years as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, Sessions has exhibited the utmost respect for our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms and has worked tirelessly to prosecute those who use guns in the commission of a crime. Despite the best efforts of some to disrupt the hearing and promote scurrilous allegations, an image of the real Sessions came through during the hearing - that of a principled statesman devoted to our Constitution.
Since his days as a U.S. Attorney, Sessions has pursued the vigorous prosecution of those who misuse firearms to prey on the public. During his opening remarks, Sessions made clear that he will make the prosecution of armed criminals a priority, noting, “If I am confirmed, we will systematically prosecute criminals who use guns in committing crimes. As United States Attorney, my office was a national leader in gun prosecutions every year.”
Later in his opening remarks, Sessions spoke of the importance of the Constitution, stating, “The Justice Department must remain ever faithful to the Constitution’s promise that our government is one of laws, not of men. It will be my unyielding commitment, if I am confirmed, to see that the laws are enforced faithfully, effectively, and impartially.” Given the prior administration’s propensity to stretch federal statute beyond its plain or intended meaning, gun owners should find such devotion to the rule of law a refreshing change.
From the outset, many of Sessions’ Senate colleagues were effusive in their praise of the nominee. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) noted that Sessions “is a man of honor and integrity, dedicated to the faithful and fair enforcement of the law who knows well and deeply respects the Department of Justice and its constitutional role.” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) stated, “I can vouch confidently for the fact that Jeff Sessions is a person of integrity, a principled leader, and a dedicated public servant.” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told Sessions, “You're a good and decent and honorable man. You've got an outstanding record that you should be proud of, and I know you are and you should be.”
Pointing to NRA-supported Project Exile, Cornyn went on to ask Sessions, “Can you assure us that you will make prosecuting those people who cannot legally possess or use firearms a priority again in the Department of Justice?” Sessions responded “I can,” adding that Project Exile “highlighted the progress that was being made by prosecuting criminals who use guns to carry out their crimes.” Sessions further noted that as a result of the strict enforcement of federal gun laws against armed criminals “Fewer people get killed,” and that “we need to step that up. It's a compassionate thing.”
During his time, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) pointed out some of the dangerous and partisan actions taken by the DOJ under Barack Obama - including Operation Fast and Furious and Operation Chokepoint – and asked whether Republicans, having taken control of the executive branch, should respond in kind by using the DOJ to “advance political preferences favored by the Republican party.” Sessions replied “No,” and explained that such partisan actions have “a corrosive effect on public confidence in the constitutional republic of which we are sworn to uphold.”
Anti-gun Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) questioned Sessions on the topic of gun control, asking, “Will you rigorously enforce statues that prohibit purchase of guns by felons or domestic abusers or drug addicts and use the statues that exist right now on the books to ban those individuals from purchasing guns?” Sessions responded adeptly, explaining, “Congress has passed those laws, they remain the bread and butter enforcement mechanisms throughout our country today to enforce guns laws. The first and foremost goal I think of law enforcement would be to identify persons who are dangerous, who have a tendency or have been proven to be law breakers and been convicted and those who are caught carrying guns during the commission of a crime.”
Despite the fact that, if confirmed, Sessions would be moving from a law-making capacity to enforcing the laws created by Congress, Blumenthal went on to ask Sessions if he supported so-called “universal” background check legislation for firearm transfers. Sessions dismissed the notion as impractical in many circumstances.
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) used his time to ask Sessions to share his thoughts on the Second Amendment. Sessions responded with a staunch defense of the right to keep and bear arms, stating, "I do believe the Second Amendment is a personal right. It's an historic right of the American people, and the Constitution protects that and explicitly states that. It's just as much a part of the Constitution as any of the other great rights and liberties that we value.”
As befitting his character, Sessions was not fazed by repeated attempts to disrupt his confirmation hearing. Some of the professional agitators that could be seen in the crowd have previously protested and attempted to disrupt NRA events and business. During the Sessions hearing, one such provocateur from Code Pink was removed from the hearing while carrying a sign that in part read, “Support Civil Rights.” The scene will strike many gun rights supporters as bizarre, given that the protestor’s group has a history of opposing the natural right to self-defense and the corresponding right to keep and bear arms.
In closing the first day of the committee hearing, Grassley told Sessions, “You're imminently qualified to serve as attorney general and I have every confidence that you're going to do a superb job.” Grassley is right. However, whether due to petty partisan politics, or attempts at personal political profit, there are still some who seek to derail Sessions’ confirmation.
That is why it is vital that gun owners take the time to urge their Senators to confirm Sessions as U.S. Attorney General. NRA has made it easier than ever for gun rights supporters to contact their elected officials. To help ensure Sessions is the next U.S. Attorney General please use the following link to register your support: https://www.nraila.org/articles/20170105/urge-your-senators-to-confirm-jeff-sessions. You can also call your U.S. Senators via the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121.