Neil Gorsuch Backs Supreme Court's Key Gun Rights Ruling As 'The Law Of The Land'

The nominee said you may overrule precedents only "in very few cases."

WASHINGTON ― Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, said Tuesday that the court’s 2008 decision declaring a fundamental right to possess guns for self-defense in the home is settled law. 

“[District of Columbia v.] Heller is the law of the land,” Gorsuch told Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on the second day of his confirmation hearing. “Whatever is in Heller is the law, and I follow the law,” he said earlier during that same exchange.

The judge hasn’t had an opportunity to rule directly on the scope of the Second Amendment during his time on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. But the National Rifle Association was comfortable enough with Gorsuch’s record to praise Trump’s choice.

Since the landmark 2008 decision, which was written by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, and a related decision in 2010, the Supreme Court has been reluctant to decide additional cases exploring the scope of the 2nd Amendment.

Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, was talking with Gorsuch about the value of legal precedent and the role the Supreme Court plays in following or overruling it.

The chair of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), has also been interested in the judge’s views on that topic. Gorsuch, who co-authored a treatise on how to handle prior decisions, told Grassley that only “in very few cases” may courts overrule precedents.

Feinstein placed special emphasis on Roe v. Wade, which the Supreme Court decided in 1973 and has upheld several times since, including as recently as 2016. When pressed about whether this made Roe a “super-precedent,” Gorsuch was more tentative.

“It has been reaffirmed many times, yes,” he said.

Later, when asked by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) what he would have done if Trump had specifically asked him to overturn the key abortion rights ruling, Gorsuch said, “I would’ve walked out that door.”

The judge has stated on a number of occasions during the hearing that he won’t comment on specific issues that may come before the Supreme Court and that he would respect prior rulings that might be relevant in related cases.

On Day 2 of his confirmation hearing, Gorsuch is facing questions from all 20 senators on the committee in a marathon session expected to last at least 10 hours.