Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

Trump’s Federal Court Appointments Will Help to Preserve Our Rights for a Generation

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Trump’s Federal Court Appointments Will Help to Preserve Our Rights for a Generation

Government doesn’t always move quite as fast as we’d like. In recent years, members of both major political parties have complained about historic Congressional inaction. The requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act can slow down executive branch efforts to repeal or amend regulations. While it can be frustrating when our friends are in power, the more deliberative aspects of our system of government are an important check that preserves our rights when circumstances are less advantageous.

However, an important avenue where President Donald Trump and our friends in the Senate have been able to move swiftly to push a pro-gun rights agenda is by exercising the president’s constitutional authority to appoint federal judges. Once confirmed, federal judges serve for life “during good Behaviour.” 

On May 18, 2016, candidate Trump signaled to the American voter that he understood the importance of the federal judiciary when he broke with convention and released a list of potential U.S. Supreme Court nominees. Exit polling data from 2016 observed that Trump’s emphasis on sound judicial appointments was a crucial factor in his victory. An NBC News poll showed that 27 percent of Trump voters cited Supreme Court appointments as their most important factor in voting, while only 19 percent of Clinton voters answered likewise. Moreover, 22 percent of all voters listed Supreme Court appointments as their most important factor in voting, up from seven percent in 2008.

When Trump took office he inherited 114 federal court vacancies from Barack Obama. In contrast, there were only 54 vacancies when Obama was inaugurated and 81 when George W. Bush began his presidency. Through November, nine of Trump’s U.S. Courts of Appeals nominees had been confirmed. Obama only notched three in his first year in office. In early November, before Trump secured the ninth confirmation, the New York Times lamented that the first eight was “the most this early in a presidency since Richard M. Nixon.” 

Even with Trump’s early victories, as of mid-December, the number of vacancies had swelled to 144. This number included 119 positions on the U.S. District Courts and 17 on the U.S. Courts of Appeals. Eager to fill these seats, as of press time Trump had nominated 44 individuals to serve; 34 to the district courts and 7 to the appellate bench. 

When Trump took office he inherited 114 federal court vacancies from Barack Obama. In contrast, there were only 54 vacancies when Obama was inaugurated and 81 when George W. Bush began his presidency.

Trump has stated that he plans to make the most of his historic opportunity. During an October 17 news conference with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the president explained, “many [nominees] are in the pipeline,” adding, “we will set records in terms of the number of judges.”

Moreover, Trump has shown that he is dedicated to nominating individuals with a proper understanding of our Second Amendment. This began with Trump’s nomination of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, who, less than three months after taking the bench, signed a blistering dissent of the Court’s decision not to take up a challenge to California’s may-issue carry regime. Trump has shown similar care in lower court appointments.

This fact has not gone unnoticed by gun rights opponents. Upon discovering that one of Trump’s district court nominees had written a 2013 blog post in support of NRA and the Second Amendment, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) took the nominee to task for his pro-gun views. In her written questions for the nominee, Feinstein all but demanded that the nominee pledge to recuse himself from “cases involving the NRA or where the NRA had taken a position.” Feinstein also quizzed the nominee on why he became a member of NRA.

Gun control proponents aren’t wrong to be concerned about a pro-Second Amendment shift in the federal judiciary. Following the landmark District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago Supreme Court decisions, the lower federal courts have played a significant role in interpreting the scope of the Second Amendment. Until the Supreme Court abandons its current reluctance take up Second Amendment cases, appellate court rulings on issues such as Right-to-Carry and commonly owned semiautomatic firearms will continue to be the law in their various districts.

Beyond strictly Second Amendment issues, federal judges are also asked to rule on the administrative state’s interpretation and enforcement of federal statute. Judges with a more comprehensive understanding of our rights should be more apt to remedy executive branch overreaches of the kind perpetrated by Obama and former-Attorney General Eric Holder.

At any given moment, NRA is involved in numerous federal court cases that run the gamut of issues that affect gun owners, from defending the Right-to-Carry, to protecting gun owners’ due process rights and privacy, to fighting illegitimate restrictions on the use of traditional ammunition. It’s impossible to know all of the federal litigation tomorrow will bring, but by prioritizing filling federal court vacancies, Trump and our Senate friends are helping to put gun rights supporters in a position to succeed for decades to come.

Chris W. Cox

BY Chris W. Cox

NRA-ILA Executive Director

Follow This Contributor

Chris W. Cox has served as the executive director of the Institute for Legislative Action, the political and lobbying arm of NRA, since 2002. As NRA’s principal political strategist, Cox oversees eight NRA-ILA divisions: Federal Affairs; State & Local Affairs; Public Affairs; Grassroots; Finance; Research & Information; Conservation, Wildlife & Natural Resources; and Office of Legislative Counsel. Cox also serves as chairman of NRA’s Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF), the Association’s political action committee; president of the NRA Freedom Action Foundation (NRA-FAF), which focuses on non-partisan voter registration and citizen education; and chairman of NRA Country, an effort to bring country music artists together with NRA members in support of our Second Amendment freedoms and hunting heritage.

From the Director Articles
FROM
WITHIN
U.S. Supreme Court Disappoints on Right-to-Carry, but Justice Gorsuch Shines

News  

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

U.S. Supreme Court Disappoints on Right-to-Carry, but Justice Gorsuch Shines

Gun owners were justifiably disappointed June 26, when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Peruta v. California. ...

A Generation of Right-to-Carry Shows Nothing is Beyond Our Reach

News  

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A Generation of Right-to-Carry Shows Nothing is Beyond Our Reach

As the Right-to-Carry movement approaches its 30-year anniversary, no states serve as better examples of the enormous progress ...

Keeping Up The Pressure

News  

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Keeping Up The Pressure

NRA-ILA remains mission-focused on passing the legislation that will make America freer and safer.

A New Day for the Second Amendment: Donald Trump Addresses the NRA

News  

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A New Day for the Second Amendment: Donald Trump Addresses the NRA

The drumbeat of fake news continues as the elites disappointed by the 2016 election dedicate themselves to “resisting” ...

Pro-Second Amendment Justice Neil M. Gorsuch Joins U.S. Supreme Court

News  

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Pro-Second Amendment Justice Neil M. Gorsuch Joins U.S. Supreme Court

Seventy-seven days into his administration, President Donald J. Trump delivered on his most important campaign promise to gun ...

NRA’s Focus on the States Pays Dividends

News  

Thursday, June 1, 2017

NRA’s Focus on the States Pays Dividends

While much of the nation’s attention has been fixated on the latest media manufactured melodrama in Washington, D.C., ...

Turning Their Back On The Supreme Court

News  

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Turning Their Back On The Supreme Court

To rein in renegade lower courts, the Supreme Court must re-engage on the subject of firearm freedoms.

Gun Owners Notch Important Victories in Trump’s First 100 Days

News  

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Gun Owners Notch Important Victories in Trump’s First 100 Days

Much is made of a president’s first 100 days in office. Citing the blistering pace that President Franklin ...

Obama’s Ungracious Exit

News  

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Obama’s Ungracious Exit

For at least a moment, it seemed as if Barack Obama might gracefully acknowledge the wishes of the ...

Jeff Sessions for U.S. Attorney General: A True Defender of our Freedom

News  

Monday, January 23, 2017

Jeff Sessions for U.S. Attorney General: A True Defender of our Freedom

President Donald Trump has nominated a true defender of our rights in U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) for ...

NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.