What Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson believes about the Constitutionality of subjective gun-licensing schemes was left unanswered on Wednesday.
President Joe Biden’s (D.) nominee to fill the upcoming vacancy on the Supreme Court refused to answer a question about subjective permitting laws during her confirmation hearing. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) asked Jackson to explain why gun rights can be subject to a local official’s “discretionary issuance of a license.” Jackson responded she could not answer the question since it was at issue in a gun-carry case before the Court.
“The Supreme Court is looking at that very issue in a case before it right now,” Jackson said. “And, as a nominee for the Supreme Court, it’s important that I not speak to it because the Court is deciding this question. It has a pending case, and I believe arguments have even occurred related to it.”
Jackson appeared to be alluding to New York State Pistol and Rifle Association v. Bruen. The Court is set to decide whether New York’s restrictive gun-carry permitting process, which gives local judges discretion not to issue full carry permits to applicants they don’t believe have a “good reason” or special need for one, violates the Second Amendment. The case has already gone through oral arguments, and the Court could issue its ruling at any time.
Blackburn followed up and asked whether other rights should be subject to the arbitrary judgment of “government bureaucrats.”
“The Second Amendment, that right to keep and bear arms, is enumerated in the text of the Constitution,” Blackburn said. “So, the question would be ‘why should it have to have an extra burden?'”
“I understand the question. It’s one that the Supreme Court is looking at,” Jackson responded. “Consistent with past practice and the need to ensure I’m not speaking to issues that are live.”
Supreme Court nominees often refuse to directly answer questions on how the Court should decide specific issues of law during their confirmation hearings. But what Jackson believes about gun licensing schemes could affect how the Supreme Court rules in more than just the New York case. Several states also require licensing for buying handguns, and Hawaii requires them for shotgun and rifle purchases as well. The Court may hear numerous gun permitting cases in the years ahead, and Jackson’s view of how far Second Amendment protections extend may play a significant role.
Jackson did provide some more insight into her understanding of Second Amendment precedents.
“Current Supreme Court precedent says that under the Second Amendment there is an individual, fundamental right to keep and bear arms in the home,” said when asked to explain the Court’s rulings.
The comments are similar to ones she made in response to questions from Senator Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) on Tuesday. Jackson affirmed the Supreme Court ruling in the landmark Heller v D.C. case and later told Senator John Cornyn (R., Texas) it deserves “respect on an equal basis” to other precedents like that set in Roe v. Wade. But the new comments are the first where Jackson described the precedent in her own words.
Still, Jackson has only described what the Supreme Court has previously ruled on the Second Amendment. She has yet to explain her personal view on the Second Amendment.
The confirmation hearings are scheduled to continue through Thursday.