Wicker Concerned With New Attorney General's Views On Gun Rights

Senator Votes Against President Obama’s Nominee Because of Second Amendment Views

February 9, 2009

Under our Constitution, the Senate is given the duty of providing the President of the United States with “advice and consent” on top executive and judicial branch nominations.  In practical terms, this gives the American people – through their elected senators – a say on the approval of the president’s choices for top members of his administration, as well as judges who serve on the bench. 

As your senator, this is a responsibility I take very seriously.  It was with that sense of responsibility that I voted last week against the confirmation of Eric Holder, President Obama’s choice for Attorney General.  Even though Mr. Holder was confirmed by vote of 75-21, I remain concerned by his record of opposition to Second Amendment rights.  I share the concerns of law-abiding gun owners across the country who worry that Mr. Holder’s views may lead to our government not fully protecting our Constitutional right to bear arms.    

                                                           OUTSIDE THE MAINSTREAM
Mr. Holder has consistently taken positions on gun rights that are outside the mainstream.  Over the course of his career, both as deputy attorney general in the Clinton Administration and as a private practice attorney, Mr. Holder has expressed the view that the Second Amendment does not guarantee an individual right to gun ownership.

 Additionally, Mr. Holder has supported a long list of proposals that would have limited Second Amendment rights.  During his time as deputy attorney general, he supported a three-day waiting period for handgun purchases, a limit on handgun purchases to one per month, the licensing and registering of all gun owners, and an increase in the age limit for handgun purchase and possession from 18 to 21 years-old. 

Shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Mr. Holder penned an op-ed in the Washington Post titled “Keeping Guns Away from Terrorists.”  In the column, he pushed for more gun control and greater restrictions on gun shows.  In January of last year, Holder joined 12 other former Justice Department officials in a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court arguing in favor of the gun ban in Washington, D.C.  Months later, in what amounted to a monumental victory for gun owners and the Second Amendment, the court struck down the city’s ban.  Already, efforts are underway to chip away at this victory.  During confirmation hearings, Mr. Holder’s evasive answers raised concerns that he is not willing to enforce the Supreme Court’s decision overturning the ban. 

Mr. Holder’s views and actions led two leading gun rights groups – the National Rifle Association and the Gun Owners of America – to oppose his nomination for Attorney General.  In addition to these pro-Second Amendment groups, Mr. Holder’s views concerned a number of my Senate colleagues, as well as hundreds of Mississippians who contacted my office to share their concerns. 

According to a February 2008 USA Today/Gallup poll, Mr. Holder’s views on gun ownership run counter to an overwhelming majority of Americans.  The survey found that 73 percent of Americans believe the Second Amendment guarantees an individual’s right to own guns.   

                                                         A CONSTITUIONAL RIGHT
There is no doubt that Mr. Holder is a well-educated individual.  However, over his professional career he has been constant in his belief that Americans have no individual right to own firearms.  Of further concern to me is the role Mr. Holder may play in efforts to challenge last year’s Supreme Court ruling that provided clear guidance on individuals’ rights under the Second Amendment.  Considering Mr. Holder’s well-documented views on the issue, I do not believe Americans will be best served by an attorney general who agrees with such efforts.  

Our nation’s elected officials have a duty to protect the constitutional rights of American citizens.  I believe the freedom to own firearms should be defended by the Justice Department just as vigorously as all other rights guaranteed by our Constitution.  As your senator, I will continue to working to protect your Second Amendment rights.