Friday, November 21, 2008

On Obama's likely Attorney General nominee

From the no-big-surprise files comes word that President-elect Obama's likely nominee for Attorney General, Eric Holder, who served in the Clinton Justice Department, wants to close the gun show "loophole". From a June 1999 statement by then-deputy Attorney General Holder:
"But while the Brady law has done a lot to make this country safer, the law has a dangerous loophole that criminals and others who cannot legally buy guns at a licenced gun shop exploit. While everyone who buys a gun through a licenced dealer must undergo a background check to determine if they are eligible to buy a gun, the current law allows unlicenced sellers at gun shows to sell to anyone -- with no questions asked.

"It's not hard to see what kind of message that sends to criminals.

"But it is hard for me to believe that any reasonable person -- including those who serve in Congress -- could oppose taking the simple step necessary to close that gap.

"Last month the Senate passed a bill that does close the loophole. And this week the House has an opportunity to join them in this very logical decision.

"This should be an easy decision. But for many Members it will not be, because of the pressure they are under from the NRA. We must urge Congress to resist the gun lobby's pressure to vote for the sham gun control being pressed on the House.

Read his statement here.

A National Review article also raises Mr. Holder's position on the "loophole":
The fact that Attorney General nominee Eric Holder is no friend to gun owners is not a surprise. What may be a surprise, and worthy of examination at his confirmation hearing, is Holder's post-9/11 contention that a pressing threat to our national security is terrorists shopping for weapons at U.S. gun shows.

Article here.

Another National Review article discusses some of Mr. Holder's record in the Clinton Justice Department:
In any other time, Holder would simply be an uninspired choice. But these are not ordinary times — we face a serious, persistent threat from Islamist terrorists. At the same time, Democrats have expressed outrage over both the alleged politicization of the Justice Department and the reckless disregard of its storied traditions. For these times, it is difficult to imagine a worse choice for AG than Eric Holder.

Much has been made, and appropriately so, of Holder’s untoward performance in the final corrupt act of the Clinton administration: the pardons issued in the departing president’s final hours. Of these, most notorious is the case of Marc Rich, an unrepentant fugitive wanted on extensive fraud, racketeering, and trading-with-the-enemy charges — but granted a pardon nonetheless thanks to the intercession of his ex-wife, a generous donor to Clinton’s library and legal-defense fund.

Holder’s role was aptly described as “unconscionable” by a congressional committee. He steered Rich’s allies to retain the influential former White House counsel Jack Quinn (Holder later conceded he hoped Quinn would help him become attorney general in a Gore administration); he helped Quinn directly lobby Clinton, doing an end-run around the standard pardon process (including DOJ’s pardon attorney); and he kept the deliberations hidden from the district U.S. attorney and investigative agencies prosecuting Rich so they couldn’t learn about the pardon application and register their objections.

Article here.

Finally, Dave Kopel, writing at Volokh, notes that Mr. Holder signed an amicus brief supporting Washington, D.C.'s handgun ban in the D.C. v. Heller case before the Supreme Court earlier this year:
Earlier this year, Eric Holder--along with Janet Reno and several other former officials from the Clinton Department of Justice--co-signed an amicus brief in District of Columbia v. Heller. The brief was filed in support of DC's ban on all handguns, and ban on the use of any firearm for self-defense in the home. The brief argued that the Second Amendment is a "collective" right, not an individual one, and asserted that belief in the collective right had been the consistent policy of the U.S. Department of Justice since the FDR administration. A brief filed by some other former DOJ officials (including several Attorneys General, and Stuart Gerson, who was Acting Attorney General until Janet Reno was confirmed)took issue with the Reno-Holder brief's characterization of DOJ's viewpoint.

But at the least, the Reno-Holder brief accurately expressed the position of the Department of Justice when Janet Reno was Attorney General and Eric Holder was Deputy Attorney General. At the oral argument before the Fifth Circuit in United States v. Emerson, the Assistant U.S. Attorney told the panel that the Second Amendment was no barrier to gun confiscation, not even of the confiscation of guns from on-duty National Guardsmen.

As Deputy Attorney General, Holder was a strong supporter of restrictive gun control. He advocated federal licensing of handgun owners, a three day waiting period on handgun sales, rationing handgun sales to no more than one per month, banning possession of handguns and so-called "assault weapons" (cosmetically incorrect guns) by anyone under age of 21, a gun show restriction bill that would have given the federal government the power to shut down all gun shows, national gun registration, and mandatory prison sentences for trivial offenses (e.g., giving your son an heirloom handgun for Christmas, if he were two weeks shy of his 21st birthday). He also promoted the factoid that "Every day that goes by, about 12, 13 more children in this country die from gun violence"--a statistic is true only if one counts 18-year-old gangsters who shoot each other as "children."(Sources: Holder testimony before House Judiciary Committee, Subcommitee on Crime, May 27,1999; Holder Weekly Briefing, May 20, 2000. One of the bills that Holder endorsed is detailed in my 1999 Issue Paper "Unfair and Unconstitutional.") [emphasis added]

It's going to be a long four (or eight) years.

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