Giffords Law Center, a gun safety group launched by former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), is adding its name to the list of organizations urging the Senate Judiciary Committee to reject President Donald Trump’s judicial nominee Lawrence VanDyke.
Giffords’ group claims his “dangerous positions on firearm policy and fealty to a gun-lobby agenda, alone, render him unfit to serve on the federal bench.”
“Giffords Law Center is compelled to warn this committee about VanDyke’s nomination because of his uniquely troublesome record,” says a forthcoming letter to the chairman and ranking member on the committee, obtained by HuffPost. “VanDyke’s dangerous commitment to gun lobby groups that oppose all firearm regulations and his advocacy for extreme, unconstitutional, and legally unsupported views on gun policy and the Second Amendment disqualify him for a life-tenured seat on the federal bench.”
Here’s a copy of the group’s letter, set to go out Tuesday.
The gun safety organization raises several concerns with VanDyke’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
In his 2014 bid for solicitor general of Montana, VanDyke claimed that all “gun control laws are misdirected” and vowed to oppose basic gun safety measures, such as tighter background checks. As solicitor general, he vigorously defended a state law that purported to exempt all firearms and ammunition manufactured and kept in Montana from federal law or regulation. When that law was struck down as unconstitutional, VanDyke responded by petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court for a review and arguing that the court should revisit precedents on congressional powers to invalidate the federal gun laws Montana had already chosen to disregard, including restrictions on machine guns, silencers and short-barreled rifles.
VanDyke, 46, went on to serve as solicitor general in Nevada, where he was instrumental in preventing the implementation of a voter-approved 2016 ballot initiative to expand gun background checks in the state.
His record reflects “blanket opposition to gun safety laws rather than any impartial desire to uphold the rule of law,” concludes Robyn Thomas, executive director of Giffords Law Center. “VanDyke’s approach is an affront to both public safety and legal precedent.”
VanDyke is also strongly opposed by The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 national civil and human rights organizations. It cites his record of attacking LGBTQ rights, arguing against women’s reproductive rights and undermining environmental protections. Alliance for Justice, a progressive judicial advocacy group, is also opposed to VanDyke, saying his “record of aggressive advocacy for partisan and right-wing causes suggests he will be unable to act as an independent, fair-minded jurist.”
The American Bar Association issued a particularly brutal evaluation of VanDyke last month and gave him a rare and embarrassing “not qualified” rating. After interviews with dozens of his colleagues, including 43 lawyers and 16 judges, the organization concluded that VanDyke “would not say affirmatively that he would be fair to any litigant before him, notably members of the LGBTQ community.”
The ABA also reported that his colleagues described him as “arrogant, lazy” and “an ideologue.”
VanDyke cried during his Senate confirmation hearing earlier this month when asked about the ABA’s conclusions.
“It is a fundamental belief of mine that all people are created in the image of God and they should all be treated with dignity and respect,” he told senators.
The Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on VanDyke’s nomination on Thursday.