WASHINGTON - After meeting Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, a Democratic senator and a Republican senator came away with differing impressions of her commitment to gun rights.
Sen. Mark Udall (D., Colo.) said yesterday that Sotomayor saw a 2008 Supreme Court ruling affirming Americans' right to own guns for self-defense as settled law.
Udall said she told him at a private meeting that she would work from the high court's decision in District of Columbia v. Heller in future cases involving gun rights.
The 5-4 ruling struck down the Washington handgun ban and imperiled similar prohibitions in other cities.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.) said earlier in the week that he was disappointed the judge refused to say during their visit that the Second Amendment "protects a fundamental right that applies to all Americans."
DeMint said Sotomayor's statement on Heller "doesn't tell us much" about her view of the issue, noting that she stood by her ruling that held that the Second Amendment protects against only federal government curbs on the right to bear arms - not state or local limits.
Her opinion "was that the hundreds of millions of Americans in the 50 states do not have a fundamental right to bear arms," DeMint said yesterday. "She refused to back away from that opinion in my meeting with her."
Gun-rights activists have accused Sotomayor of being hostile to gun rights because she was part of a panel that ruled that the Second Amendment protection of the right to bear arms did not apply to state and local governments.
In that case, Sotomayor and two other judges on the Second Circuit appeals court upheld a New York state law banning the possession of "chuka sticks." They said they were bound by an 1886 Supreme Court ruling but acknowledged the high court could take a different view, particularly in light of the Heller ruling.
Udall said he asked Sotomayor about her view of the Second Amendment during their visit.
"Clearly she spoke to the fact that settled law is just that," Udall said, "and the Heller case has been considered by the court, and she sees that as the law, and she will work off of what the court decided as other cases may come to the court's attention."