The Scramble

Quick Reaction To SCOTUS Ruling Was Revealing

The Supreme Court. Front (l-r): Associate Justices Samuel A. Alito, Jr. and
Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Associate Justices
Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. Back (l-r): Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh,
Elena Kagan, Neil M. Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett. Photograph by Fred Schilling,
Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

Probably before the anger subsided after the U.S. Supreme Court released its 6-3 ruling (earlier article “Supreme Smack Down”) against New York state’s unconstitutional “good cause” requirement to get a carry permit last month, anti-gun officials in the Empire State, neighboring New Jersey and way out in California were busy trying to figure out ways to dance around the decision.

In less than 24 hours, the attorneys general in New Jersey and California issued directives to law enforcement agencies that they were to no longer require permit applicants to show a special need. But that’s only part of it.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s directive included this caveat: “Local officials can and should continue to apply and enforce all other aspects of California law,” the memo says, “with respect to issuing public-carry licenses. In particular, the requirement that a public-carry license applicant provide proof of ‘good moral character’ remains constitutional.”

In Albany, New York, state lawmakers rushed to figure out ways to continue restricting the rights of their constituents as much as possible. They conjured up new requirements for carry permit applications including 15-20 hours of required training, “more extensive” background checks and “greater requirements for safe storage, according to Spectrum News.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the majority opinion. He has long insisted the high court needs to take more Second Amendment cases. As noted by CNN — which obviously didn’t care for his ruling — back in 2020 Thomas observed, “It is extremely improbable that the Framers understood the Second Amendment to protect little more than carrying a gun from the bedroom to the kitchen.”

But a few paragraphs later, CNN said something stunning: “Thursday’s ruling underscores the character of the contemporary court, which is often at odds with public opinion and in conflict with its predecessor courts, when centrist conservatives controlled the center and prevented the bench from pitching too far right.”

Constitutional historians, at least the pro-gun ones, have repeatedly reminded us that constitutionally protected rights are not subject to public opinion (popularity contests).

Sam Came Running

Thomas isn’t the only one who had a say on the New York law. In a concurring opinion, Justice Samuel Alito used his nine-page discussion to shred the dissenting opinion by retiring Justice Stephen Breyer.

The departing liberal justice’s dissent was based largely on emotional arguments about gun-related violent crime, which had little or nothing to do with the issue at hand. Alito pounced quickly, observing, “In light of what we have actually held, it is hard to see what legitimate purpose can possibly be served by most of the dissent’s lengthy introductory section. Why, for example, does the dissent think it is relevant to recount the mass shootings that have occurred in recent years? Does the dissent think that laws like New York’s prevent or deter such atrocities? Will a person bent on carrying out a mass shooting be stopped if he knows that it is illegal to carry a handgun outside the home? And how does the dissent account for the fact that one of the mass shootings near the top of its list took place in Buffalo? The New York law at issue in this case obviously did not stop that perpetrator.”

Alito never skipped a beat, continuing, “The dissent cites statistics on children and adolescents killed by guns…but what does this have to do with the question whether an adult who is licensed to possess a handgun may be prohibited from carrying it out-side the home? Our decision, as noted, does not expand the categories of people who may lawfully possess a gun, and federal law generally forbids the possession of a handgun by a person who is under the age of 18… and bars the sale of a handgun to anyone under the age of 21. The dissent cites the large number of guns in private hands — nearly 400 million — but it does not explain what this statistic has to do with the question whether a person who already has the right to keep a gun in the home for self-defense is likely to be deterred from acquiring a gun by the knowledge that the gun cannot be carried outside the home. And while the dissent seemingly thinks that the ubiquity of guns and our country’s high level of gun violence provide reasons for sustaining the New York law, the dissent appears not to understand that it is these very facts that cause law-abiding citizens to feel the need to carry a gun for self-defense.”

Take note, 400 million guns is a lot of hardware. In any given year, only a fraction of a fraction of those guns are used in a crime.

How many more New Yorkers, Californians and New Jersey residents will
now apply for carry permits? Officials in those states are already trying to
discourage their constituents, but will they succeed?

Doesn’t End Licensing

As noted in Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s concurring opinion (joined by Chief Justice John Roberts), this ruling doesn’t erase state licensing requirements. Intimating otherwise doesn’t make it so.

“Going forward,” Kavanaugh wrote, “the 43 States that employ objective shall-issue licensing regimes for carrying handguns for self-defense may continue to do so. Likewise, the 6 States including New York potentially affected by today’s decision may continue to require licenses for carrying hand-guns for self-defense so long as those States employ objective licensing requirements like those used by the 43 shall-issue States.”

What’s wrong with that? Well, in his dissent, Breyer wrote, “In my view, when courts interpret the Second Amendment, it is constitutionally proper, indeed often necessary, for them to consider the serious dangers and consequences of gun violence that lead States to regulate firearms.” Well, actually, it probably should not be necessary at all. Rights should not be subject to whims based on the misbehavior of people, and Breyer’s “view” did not prevail.

Later, Breyer complains, “Worse yet, gun violence appears to be on the rise. By 2020, the number of firearm-related deaths had risen to 45,222, CDC, Fast Facts, or by about 25% since 2015. That means that, in 2020, an average of about 124 people died from gun violence every day.”

Nobody died from “gun violence.” People were either murdered or committed suicide with a firearm, but Breyer does what the gun ban lobby does reflexively. He transfers blame away from the perpetrator to the firearm.

Breyer makes other arguments. “Consider, too,” he says, “interactions with police officers. The presence of a gun in the hands of a civilian poses a risk to both officers and civilians.” Not to pop anyone’s bubble, but police are civilian law enforcement.

“Amici prosecutors and police chiefs tell us that most officers who are killed in the line of duty are killed by firearms,” Breyer adds.

According to the National Law Enforcement Memorial and Museum’s preliminary year-end report on law enforcement fatalities in 2021, there were 458 total law enforcement fatalities last year, of which 301 were related to COVID-19. Of the rest, 62 were gun-related and 58 were traffic-related.

New York Mayor Eric Adams may not like it, but now it’s going to be easier
for Big Apple citizens to arm up and fight back after decades of having their
Second Amendment right to bear arms curtailed.

Then Comes Mayor Adams

Evidently not to be outdone — or upstaged — New York City Mayor Eric Adams weighed in with the usual rhetoric about the “Wild West” while decrying the possibility more people would be carrying guns in The Big Apple.

At least from now on, a lot of them will be carrying legally. He skipped over the obvious, however, and promised his administration would “do everything in our power, using every resource available to ensure that gains we’ve seen during this administration are not undone.”

Gains? I checked data from the New York City Police Department, which revealed that May saw 45 homicides for the month, while May 2021 recorded 41 murders. That’s a 9.8% increase, not exactly what anyone would call progress.

I followed that up with a visit to the New York Post archives, which noted last year the city logged 485 murders, a 4 percent increase over 2020, when 468 people were killed. The city may be on track to do it again this year.

The New York Daily News reported Adams & company quickly started thinking if expanding the list of “sensitive places” in the city. Justice Thomas was thinking ahead to just such a legislative shenanigan when he wrote on Page 22 of the ruling, “But expanding the category of “sensitive places” simply to all places of public congregation that are not isolated from law enforcement defines the category of ‘sensitive places’ far too broadly. Respondents’ argument would in effect exempt cities from the Second Amendment and would eviscerate the general right to publicly carry arms for self-defense … Put simply, there is no historical basis for New York to effectively declare the island of Manhattan a ‘sensitive place’ simply because it is crowded and protected generally by the New York City Police Department.”

Good Reading

It has been a month since the court handed down the Thomas ruling, time enough for people to have given the opinion a careful read, along with the concurring and dissenting opinions.

Some contend it is a narrow ruling, but maybe that’s just people being reflexively pessimistic, a trait often found in conservatives who find themselves outvoted in elections (especially when they don’t bother to vote).

No ruling that quickly results in two states suddenly changing their carry permit application requirements is narrow. The Thomas ruling is a gem of understandable common sense, which may be why anti-gunners were furious.

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