As a member of Congress, one of the most important responsibilities I have is to protect the Constitutional rights of those I have been elected to serve. This, of course, includes the right of law-abiding citizens to own firearms for recreational use and to protect their families and property.
Despite the Second Amendment’s importance, the right to keep and bear arms has come under attack continually by anti-gun groups. In response to this hostility, it is important that members of Congress take every opportunity to protect the Second Amendment. I have consistently stood up for this fundamental right, and I took the opportunity to do so several times last week.
JUDGE SOTOMAYOR NOMINATION
Following the conclusion of her Senate hearings last week, I announced my intention to oppose the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court. Despite the respect I have for Judge Sotomayor’s life story and professional accomplishments, I am deeply concerned about her record and philosophy on a number of issues, including the Second Amendment.
During her confirmation hearings, Judge Sotomayor refused to confirm that the Second Amendment is a fundamental right that applies to all 50 states, and thus, all Americans. This is a view that is certainly out of the mainstream in Mississippi, and I believe across the rest of the nation.
Alarmingly, this is not the first high-profile Obama administration nominee that has held a hostile view of the Second Amendment. In February, I voted against the confirmation of Eric Holder as attorney general due to his long history of opposing gun rights. I believe all freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution – including the right to bear arms – should be respected and defended by both the Supreme Court and the Department of Justice.
TAKING LEGISLATIVE ACTION
There was also legislative action taken last week to strengthen our Second Amendment freedoms. During consideration of the annual defense authorization bill, I voted in support of an amendment offered by Sen. John Thune from South Dakota. The Thune amendment would have given residents in states like Mississippi with concealed-carry permits the ability to carry their firearms in another state, so long as the host state’s laws are followed. In a disappointing outcome, the measure fell just two votes short of being adopted.
Also last week, I continued working to allow law-abiding gun owners to transport firearms securely during train travel. I am preparing legislation to be introduced soon that will make it legal for Amtrak passengers to travel with firearms secured in their checked baggage. Airline passengers are free to transport firearms and ammunition in secure luggage, but Amtrak passengers in our country are not permitted to do the same. I do not believe law-abiding gun owners should be penalized for seeking alternative means of travel, particularly on a federally-subsidized rail line. My legislation aims to fix this inequity.
Earlier this year, I was successful in offering this Amtrak provision as an amendment to the budget resolution. My amendment was adopted by a vote of 63-35, though it was unfortunately removed during final House-Senate negotiations. I am optimistic that I can build upon this earlier success and secure even more support for this legislation.
A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT
The Second Amendment is a fundamental American right and an integral part of everyday life in Mississippi. As your United States Senator, I will continue working to make sure that does not change.