WASHINGTON — Justice Sonia Sotomayor's decision last month to oppose expanded gun rights under the Second Amendment is being cited by the National Rifle Association as reason for senators to oppose Elena Kagan, President Obama's second nominee to the Supreme Court.
The NRA released an anti-Kagan ad this week that shows Sotomayor seemingly assuring senators during her confirmation hearing last year that she supports individual gun rights. Citing her vote in June to uphold a handgun ban in Chicago, the ad urges members to call their senators and "tell them not to fall for the same trick twice."
The Senate Judiciary Committee met Tuesday to consider Kagan's nomination but, at the request of its Republicans, put off a vote for one week. She is expected to win support from the panel's 12 Democrats; the committee's seven Republicans, except possibly Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, are expected to oppose her.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said he was granting the delay despite his suspicion that everyone on the committee had already decided how they would vote on Kagan.
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Last year, the NRA opposed Sotomayor's confirmation, and White House aides say the gun lobby's intervention cost her up to 10 votes. Nonetheless, Sotomayor was approved by a 68-31 vote in the Senate. Kagan, the solicitor general, is expected to win confirmation next month, but on a closer vote.
Kagan, like Sotomayor, told senators that she viewed the court's recent rulings on gun rights as "settled law." This suggested — but did not promise — she would support the legal principle in future cases.
Conservative critics and at least a few liberals questioned Sotomayor's decision to sign with liberal justices to a dissenting opinion that mostly rejected the notion of individual gun rights protected by the Constitution.
"The Framers did not write the Second Amendment in order to protect a private right of armed self-defense," wrote Justice Stephen G. Breyer in the opinion, which Sotomayor joined. "There has been, and is, no consensus that the right is, or was, 'fundamental.' "
However, the 5-4 majority ruled that the Second Amendment protects the fundamental right of an individual to have a handgun at home, and it said this right applies equally to cities and states, as well as the federal government.