Second Amendment Minimalism: Heller as Griswold appeared in a symposium issue of the Havard Law Review last fall. Sunstein examines the parallels between Heller and Griswold: "In both cases, the Court spoke on behalf of the contemporary sentiment of a national majority against a national outlier...No less than the right of privacy, and notwithstanding the backward-looking nature of the Court's opinion, the right to have guns is likely to evolve over time through case-by-case judgments made under the influence of contemporary social commitments."
Sunstein also notes an important distinction between Griswold and Heller:
There is an important historical difference to be pondered as well. Heller is the product of a mature current of constitutional thought, spurred by private groups but also by committed academics, that had clearly become prominent in nationwide politics and culture and that, by 2008, had established itself as thoroughly mainstream. In sharp contrast, Griswold was the result of an early effort by an incipient movement for reproductive rights and sex equality that had yet to become highly visible on the nation's cultural viewscreen. In this sense, Heller has far more in common with Brown v. Board of Education than with Griswold—in the particular sense that Brown, like Heller, was the culmination of a long process of advocacy, in a self-conscious effort to entrench a certain understanding of the Constitution in the interest of social reform. In short, Heller and Griswold have distinctive sociologies. While the two are both responsive to public convictions, the cultural backdrop for the two decisions was radically different.As a description of judicial behavior, I think Sunstein's article is accurate. He would prefer that the Second Amendment be interpreted to uphold gun laws which I might consider to be infringements. However, Sunstein makes it clear that he considers Heller rightly decided; he is no originalist, but instead believes that the Court owed some deference to the moral commitments of tens of millions of Americans. Thus, Sunstein qualifies as among the most "pro-Second Amendment" of Obama administration nominees.
This is, admittedly, a very small group. Other than Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, I cannot think of any Obama nominee with a record of doing anything to support an individual Second Amendment right that includes the right to own a handgun.
I echo Ilya's point (see the chained post) that Sunstein has a much more pro-liberty perspective than anyone else that Obama might nominate to run the Office of Information and Regulatory Policy.
Update: A commenter has posted a video of a Sunstein lecture at U. Chicago in 2007 which presents a much more hostile attitude towards the individual right than is expressed in the Harvard article.
Still more: The American Spectator quotes an unnamed White House source:
"The goal from this White House is to have as much nonspecific language passed by Congress in policy areas like health care and the environment and then use Sunstein's office to put in place the regulatory language called for by Congress that gets us to where we want to be. It may very well be the most important job in this administration, given the lack of success we may have on Capitol Hill."