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The Reno Case Illustrates Judge Garland’s Danger to the Second Amendment

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Article first appeared at Ammo Land.

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New York, NY  -(Ammoland.com)-  President Barack Obama and those who support the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court wax poetic about Judge Garland’s many positive traits, naming among these: great intelligence, perceptive analytical ability, meticulous, methodical attention to detail when deciding a case, personal integrity, collegiality, even modesty – and so forth and so on.

But, it is most remarkable that, for all of this effulgent, indeed effusive praise, little, if anything is said by the Judge’s proponents and benefactors about the cases Judge Merrick Garland has actually decided and, too, the reasoning Judge Garland employs when deciding a case.

So, to fill in that gap, we look at a critical Second Amendment case that Judge Merrick decided as Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

A close look at that case will give both the U.S. Senate and the American public a nice snapshot of how Judge Merrick Garland, sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court as Justice Associate Justice Garland, would likely decide Second Amendment cases that come before the high Court. The U.S. Court of Appeals case that we will be looking at was decided in the first year of the twenty-first century. It is titled, National Rifle Association of America, Inc. vs. Reno, 216 F.3d 122, 2000 U.S. App. LEXIS 15906, 342 U.S. App. D.C. 231 (D.C. Cir. 2000).

Our analysis of this case illustrates that, while Judge Garland may be a meticulous, methodical thinker, this does not mean the Judge is not prone to errors in both law and logic. These errors are compounded by or, perhaps, due precisely to Judge Garland’s evident antipathy toward the Second Amendment. One’s philosophical bent toward the Bill of Rights does follow one – all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.



The Reno case involves the proper meaning to be given to one clause in one paragraph of one section of the Gun Control Act of 1968. The case involves, what, at first glance, may seem to be an uninteresting, arcane issue of pertaining to statutory construction.

Yet, the central theme of the case should be of concern to any American who expresses even a modicum of interest in the preserving the Second Amendment. The case pertains to criminal background checks on persons who wish to purchase firearms or ammunition.

The use of the criminal background check system devised by the Justice Department operates as an end-run around the Second Amendment because it serves to weaken the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. The argument evinced by antigun groups and by their proponents in State Legislatures, in the U.S. Congress, and in the White House is that criminal background checks simply help keep guns out of the wrong hands and do nothing to preclude the law-abiding citizen from possessing firearms.

What is left unsaid, though, is that gun background checks are often backdoor gun registration schemes or, at least, mechanisms that can evolve into gun registration schemes. This is a decidedly bad thing to countenance in a free Republic. It is just this sort of backdoor scheme that the Justice Department created when the Department promulgated rules to effectuate the instant background check program enacted by Congress in 1993. The Justice Department had no authority, though, to create what amounts to or, at least, may eventually evolve into, a hidden federal firearms’ registration program. The rules that Reno’s Justice Department created to implement Congressional legislation is cause for alarm.

Judge Merrick Garland
Judge Merrick Garland is no friend of the Second Amendment,

NRA subsequently brought action against Janet Reno, Attorney General, challenging the legality of the Justice Department’s criminal background check rules related to gun transactions. The United States District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed NRA’s Complaint against the Attorney General. NRA then appealed the adverse decision of the lower United States District Court to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The case was heard by a panel of three Judges, namely, Judges, Tatel, Garland, and Sentelle. Two of the three Judges, Tatel and Garland, ruled in favor of the Attorney General, against NRA, thereby affirming the decision of the lower Court, against NRA. Judge Tatel wrote the opinion for the majority. Judge Garland, Obama’s nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court agreed with both the decision and the reasoning of Judge Tatel, thereby making Judge Tatel’s opinion essentially Judge Garland’s as well. Judge Sentelle wrote a scathing dissenting opinion.

The dissenting Judge agreed with NRA and chastised the Attorney General, Janet Reno, asserting that the national instant criminal background check system “statute establishes that Congress has unambiguously told the Attorney General that she shall not do what she is doing in the regulations.” Judges Garland and Tatel, however, disagreed, striking a blow to the Second Amendment.

Since two Judges out of three ruled in favor of Janet Reno, we are stuck with bad law.

To understand why the Justice Department’s actions do cause and should cause alarm to Americans who hold the Second Amendment sacrosanct and inviolate we need to take a look, briefly at the Gun Control Act of 1968 and to the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 that amends the Gun Control Act of 1968. We do so in Part 3 of this multi-series article.

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Read Part Three

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For more information, visit: www.arbalestquarrel.com.


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