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America’s elected representatives do many things well, but making firearms policies and assessing Supreme Court nominees are two with which they have struggled.

Gun control is one of the most volatile public policy issues. Many contend that a heavy price is paid every day because of inadequate controls on firearms. Others believe that legal restrictions on guns are counterproductive and that the freedom to have guns is in peril. This gun control versus gun rights debate has become deeply enmeshed in the political culture wars.

Similarly, few have good things to say about how the U.S. Senate reviews nominations of Supreme Court justices. Hypocrisy abounds as senators decry tactics and arguments used against a nominee they favor, but turn around and employ the same methods when they oppose a nominee. Meanwhile, nominees decline to answer questions that would reveal their views about any controversial issue.

This Article looks at the intersection of these two much-maligned areas of law, politics, and policy. It reviews the role that gun issues have played in the Senate’s consideration of Supreme Court nominations, particularly the three most recent nominees (Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan) and it aims to provoke thinking about these issues in future confirmations.

The confirmation process is far from perfect, but the dialogue between nominees and senators can promote more precise and reasoned consideration of important issues. A reasonable and thoughtful airing of differing views about guns at Supreme Court confirmation hearings will not eliminate the bitterness and stubbornness of the debate over guns in America, but it is a small step in the right direction.

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Northeastern University Law Journal





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