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Supreme Court Looks Ready To Ditch ALL Gun Laws, Won't That Be Fun?
New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v Corlett looks like it will be a bloodbath.
This week, the Supreme Court decided to hear a gun case, granting cert in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Corlett .
It's very bad.
At the very least, this case is almost certainly going to make it easier for people to carry guns with them in public. And at the worst, it could be used to gut any number of gun control laws across the country.
Concealed carry for everyone!
New York and seven other states make people show "good cause" to get a concealed carry permit. More than one-quarter of the US population lives in those states.
Concealed carry laws were some of the first firearms restrictions in the country and the New York law at issue in this case has been on the books since 1913. If you want to carry a gun in public for something like going to a shooting range, you can get a limited license to carry it specifically for that purpose. But to get an unrestricted concealed carry license, you have to "show a special need for self-protection distinguishable from that of the general community."
Now, the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association and two men who were denied concealed carry permits are arguing that "law-abiding citizens" have a god-given Second Amendment right to take their guns wherever they please — and the Supreme Court appears poised to agree with them. The crazies are represented by former George W. Bush solicitor general and go-to Republican lawyer Paul Clement.
The fact that the Court took the case at all indicates which way it's going to rule. The Second Circuit upheld the lower court's dismissal of Corlett and courts that get to pick and choose which cases to hear don't tend to agree to hear something just to say, "Great job! Well done!"
There's also the little matter of our current Court ...
Laws, judges, and guns
The text of the Second Amendment reads in full, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
A lot of people don't realize this, but the first Supreme Court case to recognize an individual right to bear arms wasn't decided until 2008. And, spoiler alert, it wasn't good.
Until recently, the controlling Supreme Court case was US v Miller , which held that the Second Amendment was a collective right, not an individual right, and looked at whether the law in question had "some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia."
In DC v. Heller , the Supreme Court ruled for the first time that the Second Amendment protects the individual right to own guns. The Scalia-drafted opinion, while touting itself as "textualist," almost entirely ignored the part about the "well regulated militia." Striking down DC's handgun ban, the Court ruled that the Second Amendment gives individuals the right to own and use guns.
Justice John Paul Stevens, who served on the Court for 35 years, called Heller "the Supreme Court's worst decision of [his] tenure." And, in a memoir written after his retirement, Justice Stevens said that Anthony Kennedy , then the Court's swing vote, was able to get "some important changes" made to Scalia's original draft of the Heller opinion.
Justice Kennedy's hedging is what likely resulted in the passages in Heller that offered moderation, like the part about how "nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms[,]" and other "presumptively lawful regulatory measures[.]"
Our new Court is unlikely to have any such qualms about obliterating our nation's gun control laws. At least two of Trump's three Supreme Court appointees have already written about how much they love guns. In 2011, on the DC Circuit, Justice Kegstand dissented in another case styled Heller v. DC , arguing that DC's gun registration requirement and ban on semi-automatic assault rifles were unconstitutional. And on the Seventh Circuit in 2019, Amy Bony Carrot declared in her Kanter v. Barr dissent that it was unconstitutional to prevent felons from owning guns — at least without "proving the felon is violent." These dissents put them to the right of even Scalia's opinion in Heller .
Yup, it's all bad.
I'm sorry. I have no glimmer of hope to offer with this one. Unless Democrats magically grow spines and do a little court-packing, there is no way to save us from the horrors this Supreme Court is going to make a reality.
The Heller and McDonald opinions, while terrible, at least included some caveats. With no voice of moderation left on the right side of the SCOTUS bench, there may be no end to what formerly "presumptively lawful" gun control laws this Court obliterates.
But hey, maybe it will be fun to see an associate justice of the Supreme Court stand behind the bench while shouting the words "I LIKE GUNS, OKAY?!"
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