People For the American Way

Ted Cruz: Don’t Believe What I Said to the Supreme Court

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz – who notoriously attempted to lecture Sen. Dianne Feinstein yesterday about the Constitution and the Second Amendment, asserting his deep knowledge of the subject as the submitter of an amicus brief representing 31 states in the Supreme Court’s Heller case – seems to be caught in a huge contradiction that begs for clarification.

Yesterday, during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s consideration of the assault weapons ban bill, Cruz flatly asserted that the Supreme Court’s District of Columbia v. Heller decision absolutely prohibits the proposed federal ban on assault weapons. Yet, in the brief he proudly pointed to submitting he claimed that a favorable ruling in the case would not undermine the constitutionality of the 1994 federal assault weapons ban, which had expired in 2004 and which included many of the weapons inthe current bill. His brief said that “none of the federal firearms regulations discussed in the United States’s brief is jeopardized by the Court of Appeals’s decision.” The federal assault weapons ban was one of those regulations discussed in brief submitted by the United States.

In addition, as the Yelling at the TV blog has pointed out, Cruz’s brief also specifically called state assault weapons bans reasonable:

Indeed, it bears emphasis that amici States likewise have a strong interest in maintaining the many state laws prohibiting felons in possession, restricting machine guns and sawed-off shotguns, and the like. See Appendix.

But all 31 amici States agree that striking down the District of Columbia’s categorical ban on all operative firearms would pose no threat to these reasonable regulations. (emphasis added)

Cruz pointed the Justices to his appendix, where he listed those state laws he regarded as “reasonable” and which would not be threatened by the ruling they ultimately made. Among them are bans on assault weapons in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York.

If Cruz meant what he said to the Supreme Court, then did the Justices say something in Heller that differed from what Cruz was urging them to say?

Or perhaps the difference is that Senator Cruz is now speaking on his own behalf, while as Texas Solicitor General he was advocating a legal position on behalf of his client (the state of Texas). Such a claim would come just a week after Cruz joined other Republicans last week in filibustering Caitlin Halligan’s nomination to the DC Circuit on the basis of arguments she made on behalf of her clients, assuming that what an attorney argues in court on behalf of their client reflects their personal beliefs.

It’s also one thing to advocate the legal position of a client that you may or may not personally believe (e.g., arguing that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to bear arms and makes the District of Columbia law unconstitutional). It’s another thing to make a factual statement in support of that argument (“this legal interpretation won’t affect x, y, and z laws, which are not part of this case”) that, it turns out, you believe is false.

Whatever the explanation is, it is something he should explain.


District of Columbia v. Heller, gun violence, Second Amendment, Ted Cruz