The Department of Justice is advising a federal judge in Mississippi that he does not need to hire a historian to determine whether a contested gun law complies with the Supreme Court’s most recent Second Amendment opinion.
The highly unusual brief came after the judge, Carlton Reeves, wrote a scorching order in November, expressing his frustration with the Supreme Court’s opinion issued over the summer and ordering the parties to brief him on whether he needed outside help to decipher the contours of the ruling.
“The court is not a trained historian,” Reeves wrote.
Instead of settling open questions in the law, the high court’s opinion last term – which expanded the scope of the Second Amendment and required a newly articulated reliance on historical tradition – has spawned some confusion in the lower courts. It outraged supporters of gun restrictions and was welcomed by those who support gun rights.
In the new filing, the Biden administration defended a federal statute barring felons from possessing firearms and urged the court not to hire an historian, arguing that the government should win the case without such an intervention.
“Our legal tradition rests in large part on the responsibility of the parties to present materials necessary to support their legal positions,” a government lawyer said in the new brief.
“The prospect of judges in all 94 federal judicial districts retaining a historian would be an expensive proposition and a departure from the typical reliance on the parties to provide support for their legal positions,” US Attorney Darren J. LaMarca wrote.
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