Giffords Law Center Condemns Judiciary Committee for Advancing Nominee for a Lifetime Appointment on Federal Bench Because of his Record Advocating Dangerous Gun Lobby Positions

February 8, 2018 – Following today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing during which a number of lifetime judicial appointments were considered, Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence condemned the Senate Judiciary Committee for advancing the nomination of Howard C. Nielson, Jr., a nominee to a lifetime judicial appointment for his record advocating dangerous gun lobby positions that would undermine public safety laws.

“The federal bench in Utah is no place for a Washington, DC lawyer who has consistently done the gun lobby’s bidding and will do so as a federal judge,” said Robyn Thomas, Executive Director of Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “But the Trump Administration has given in to pressure and financial support from the gun lobby and rubber stamped nominees for the courts with views that are completely out of step with mainstream America. That’s a shame, because these judges will shape our laws for the next generation. It’s time for the Senate to do its job and reject nominees that would be more concerned with backing a reckless gun lobby agenda over upholding laws that keep Americans safe.”

On January 9th, Giffords Law Center sent a letter to committee leadership warning that the extreme views of Howard C. Nielson, Jr., nominated for an opening on the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, and his absolutist interpretation of the Second Amendment have consistently led him to push for the weakening of gun safety laws. With a history of working for the National Rifle Association and other gun lobby groups, Nielson’s ability to remain independent and impartial in cases pertaining to gun laws and the Second Amendment is in doubt.

In the letter, the Giffords Law Center noted that the Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller ruled that the right to keep and bear arms was “not unlimited,” yet Nielson has worked on cases to undermine public safety laws backed by Heller.

Nielson has made the following arguments for the NRA and other gun lobby groups:

  • The federal law barring handgun sales to 18-20 year olds must be struck down under the Second Amendment. Congress has barred federally licensed gun dealers from selling handguns to young people between 18-20 because they are four times more likely to commit gun homicides than older adults.

  • The Texas law that limits concealed carry permits to law abiding adults at least 21 years old must be struck down under the Second Amendment. The decision to not allow young adults to carry hidden, loaded weapons in public was derided by Nielson as unconstitutional; in a separate case, he argued it violated the Second Amendment to require a good reason to receive a permit to carry a hidden, loaded gun in public.

  • A city in Illinois was violating the Second Amendment by restricting access to military-style assault rifles and large capacity ammunition magazines that were used in mass shootings in Aurora, Newtown, Orlando, Las Vegas, and Sutherland Springs. Neilson’s argument for the Illinois Rifle Association that these weapons were not “dangerous” and actually “safer” than other firearms was rejected by the Supreme Court and every other Court of Appeals that has considered similar restrictions on assault weapons and large capacity magazines.

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