CHICAGO (CN) – A federal judge has refused to recuse himself from the National Rifle Association’s case against the City of Evanston because of an article the judge wrote on federal gun legislation in 1976.
The NRA sued Evanston and its Mayor Lorraine Morton, challenging the city’s ban on handgun possession. The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Marvin E. Aspen, who in 1976 wrote an article for the Chicago Bar Record, “Judges look at Gun Control.”
Aspen wrote that he had “a bias in favor of the enactment of new federal gun control legislation” and “the overwhelming majority of Americans who favor such legislation are continually frustrated by a minority-interest gun lobby.”
The NRA asked Aspen to recuse himself because it felt the article showed personal bias against it. But Aspen refused, basing his decision on passage of time and the article’s substance.
Aspen said he expressed no opinion about the Evanston handgun ban, which was not enacted until six years after the article was published, and that his only comment about local gun control was negative.
“Although I repeatedly promoted the enactment of federal gun legislation, I plainly stated that ‘state and local legislation … has been, and will continue to be, ineffective,'” Aspen wrote.
Aspen says that timing is important. He says that when he wrote the article, the assassinations of Sen. Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. were recent history, while the assassination attempt of President Ronald Reagan and the Brady Law campaign had not happened. Aspen added, “federal judges are permitted to come to the bench with pre-existing views on the law and, furthermore, have no duty to issue a press release should those opinions change over the course of the lifetime appointments.”