A federal judge based in Mississippi has released a scorching order expressing frustration with the Supreme Court’s Second Amendment opinion issued last summer and ordered the Justice Department to brief him on whether he needs to appoint an historian to help him decipher the landmark opinion.
The opinion in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen changed the framework judges must use to review gun regulations. Going forward, Justice Clarence Thomas said that a gun law could only be justified if it is “consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”
Judge Carlton Reeves – who is considering a case concerning a federal statute prohibiting felons from possessing firearms – said he is not sure how to proceed.
“This court is not a trained historian,” Reeves wrote in an order released last week.
“The justices of the Supreme Court, as distinguished as they may be, are not trained historians,” he continued.
“And we are not experts in what white, wealthy and male property owners thought about firearms regulation in 1791,” he said.
The Bruen decision, he said, requires him to “play historian in the name of constitutional adjudication.”
Reeves, who sits on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, ordered the parties, including the Justice Department, to brief him on whether he should appoint a historian within 30 days. “Not wanting to itself cherry-pick the history, the Court now asks the parties whether it should appoint a historian to serve as a consulting expert in this matter,” he said.
The challenger to the felon possession law, Jesse Bullock, says the regulation cannot withstand the Supreme Court’s latest decision interpreting the Second Amendment.
“Founding era legislatures did not strip felons of the right to bear arms simply because of their status as felons,” Bullock argued.
Since Bruen was released, new challenges to gun laws have opened up nationwide, but no other judge has deployed such strong criticism of the decision.
Reeves, an Obama nominee, has made headlines before. In 2019, evoking the history of segregation in the South, he publicly lambasted then-President Donald Trump for his attacks on judges.