Ron Wyden sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee which will soon hold hearings on the president's nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court justice David Souter.
OPEN LETTER TO SENATOR WYDEN FROM THE GUN OWNERS CAUCUS OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF OREGON
May 7, 2009RE: Supreme Court nominations and the Second Amendment
Dear Senator Wyden:
We are writing to you on behalf of the members of the Gun Owners Caucus of the Democratic Party of Oregon. As a caucus, the second largest within the DPO, we exist to promote appreciation and understanding of the Second Amendment within the Democratic Party, and to work for the election of Democratic candidates within Oregon to further our party’s goals of economic justice and civil rights for all.
One way in which we work for the election of Democrats is in advertising our party’s strong record on civil liberties, including respect for the Second Amendment. Our members represent every county in Oregon from the most liberal to the most conservative but share the central belief that individual gun ownership is a Constitutional guarantee and one that has served to support our Democratic freedoms.
The official position of the Democratic Party of Oregon shows the same depth of support for the Second Amendment as it does for the entire Bill of Rights. The party’s official position on gun ownership as a right is summed up in Resolution 2005-008, which was overwhelmingly passed by the members of the State Central Committee in 2005. This resolution reads as follows:
A RESOLUTION OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF OREGON
WHEREAS, the Democratic Party has long been dedicated to the preservation of civil liberties; and
WHEREAS, the Democratic Party has long been dedicated to the preservation of freedom and social justice.
NOW, THEREFORE, THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF OREGON RESOLVES AS FOLLOWS:
Section 1. To recognize and support the right to keep and bear arms in Article 1 Section 27 of the Oregon State Constitution and the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America as an individual right not granted by the government, but rather guaranteed by the government.
Section 2. In recognition of the tremendous personal responsibility engendered by the right to keep and bear arms, the Democratic Party of Oregon further advocates severe penalties and their enforcement for criminal use or misuse of the right.
Further information on our caucus and the position of the Democratic Party of Oregon regarding Second Amendment guarantees is posted on the party website: http://www.oregondemocrats.org/gun_owners
Today we are writing on behalf of our members to express our hopes and concerns for the replacement of retiring Supreme Court justice David Souter.
President Obama has made his position clear in regards to Second Amendment rights—he has stated he agrees gun ownership is an individual right. In this position the president shows his agreement with by both the Democratic Party of Oregon and the precedent set by the Supreme Court in last year’s landmark ruling “District of Columbia vs. Heller.” As Democrats it is our greatest hope that the president will follow up on these expressed beliefs and in his first Supreme Court nomination assuage the concerns of those gun owners who would otherwise vote Democratic if they were convinced of the sincerity of the party’s support for gun rights. We believe this can best be done by choosing a nominee with a strong history of supporting both Second Amendment rights and the concept of stare decisis, especially in landmark cases such as Roe v. Wade or D.C. v. Heller which have settled long-standing civil rights struggles.
We do not feel researching the background of a nominee to gauge his or her prior opinions or readiness to uphold or overturn prior case law represents a litmus test or unreasonable queries. Further, given the freshness of the Heller decision, we suggest and request you should do a service to those who value civil liberties by asking direct questions about the Heller case, in addition to other cases directly affecting interpretation of the Bill of Rights and subsequent amendments.
The Oregonian recently noted that during a town hall meeting you held in Fossil, Oregon this year, a young girl asked you what so many in the crowd were clearly thinking—“Is the president going to take away our guns?” Your response, in our view, was perfect—you noted that the president has done nothing to diminish Second Amendment rights and you do not believe he intends to. We believe it is of utmost importance that future events allow this statement remain true. It would be even better if the president were to do something truly positive for gun owners by appointing a justice with a deep passion for the Second Amendment and empathy with the concerns of the 30 million gun owners who voted for President Obama in 2009. There are as well as millions more watching who would also vote for Democrats if only for their concerns around this single issue could be soothed with action as well as words.
Appointment of a pro-gun rights, pro-Heller-decision justice with a history of respect for stare decisis is, in our opinion, how the president and yourself can “seal the deal” with gun owners in Oregon and through the U.S. Please do not miss this opportunity to show Democratic support for this central tenet of American democracy.
Zak Johnson, Chair (Portland); Chuck Butcher, Vice Chair (Baker City); Brian Reichhoff, Treasurer (Portland)