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Key Excerpt: Coburn and Sotomayor on Second Amendment

Courtesy of CQ Transcriptions

SEN. COBURN: I also asked you yesterday -- I want you to understand. You were raised in the Bronx. I was born in Wyoming and raised in Oklahoma. They're really geographically and culturally. Different areas. And so I want you to understand why I'm spending so much time talking with you about the Second Amendment.

My constituents in Oklahoma understand, as do most Americans, that the right to own guns hangs in the balance. It may very well hang in the balance with your ascendancy to the Supreme Court. For us, one wrong vote on what we consider -- regardless of what you consider -- but what we consider a fundamental right could get the holding of Heller.

And I have some serious concerns on that issue. And I want to ask you a few more questions.

Yesterday, you said that, clearly, a constitutional right only works if you can enforce it. And I agree. Tell me how American citizens would be able to enforce their individual constitutional right to bear arms if you're holding that it does not apply to the states in your previous case as the appellate level becomes the law of the land?

JUDGE SOTOMAYOR: The only statement I can start with is Maloney was decided on the basis of precedent. It was decided on precedent the Supreme Court, in Heller, recognized as its precedent. It was based on Second Circuit precedent that had interpreted the constitutional -- the Supreme Court's prior precedent. It may well be, may not be, that Senator Hatch was right that the old precedent should be distinguished in a certain way. Others may be right that it shouldn't.

That issue was not the one the Maloney court decided Maloney on. It decided it on the rule of law. It was the rule of law that led Judge Easterbrook in the Seventh Circuit decision to say not what we should be doing, it's what the Supreme Court should do is to reexamine a precedent that's directly on point.

I can assure your constituents that I have a completely open mind on this question. I do not close my mind to the fact and the understanding that there were developments after the Supreme Court's rulings on incorporation that will apply to this question or be considered. I have a completely open mind.

Continue reading the exchange between Sen. Coburn and Judge Sotomayor here.

By Washington Post editors  |  July 16, 2009; 12:10 PM ET
Categories:  Hearings , Supreme Court , Topics: Second Amendment  
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