Kitty Felde

Feinstein on guns

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein told Solicitor General Elena Kagan that she comes to the subject of guns differently from her colleagues. She became Mayor of San Francisco as a "product of assassination. She talked about "innocent after innocent" being killed in California – a 6-year-old in a Spider-Man outfit eating ice cream, a woman in L.A. – and a child playing the piano was paralyzed – all hit by bullets that penetrated the walls of their homes. Feinstein said rural states have different problems than large metropolitan areas. California, she said, is the gang capital of America. The state has tried to legislate guns - specifically assault weapons.

She quoted Kagan's earlier statement that the Supreme Court decision questioning the Chicago and Washington DC handgun bans are now binding precedent. "That is settled law you said." But Feinstein asked why a 5-4 closely decided decision is binding after so many decades of previous rulings.

Kagan's answer was simple: because the court has decided the case. She added that if there were compelling reasons to overthrow the decision - factual circumstances, for example. But barring that, a judge respects precedent. She called it an "important principle of our legal system." Kagan said even if you think something is wrong, that’s not enough.

It's an answer that did not please Feinstein. But it might allay the concerns of GOP senators who have asked Kagan about her respect for legal precedent.

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