It’s been a busy week in US Supreme Court news. Such a busy week, that one of the most important decisions of the past decade (New York State Rifle & Pistol Association) is already becoming overshadowed by another (Dobbs).
In the former case, the court ruled 6-3 that Americans do indeed have a right to carry a gun on them. While many of us firmly believed this to be an obvious extension of the Second Amendment, the court had previously only gone so far as to reiterate that Americans had a right to keep a gun in their home for personal defense (Heller).
That frankly didn’t do much for Americans unfortunate enough to live in the bluest of states and cities. Places like New York and California imposed stringent licensing requirements that basically made the right to self-defense exist in name only—virtually no one could meet the standards they set to get a license to carry.
When I lived in New York City, no one I knew even felt comfortable taking the risk of purchasing a gun and transporting it to their home for personal safety because they feared they’d be apprehended in the process. This meant that even while the Heller decision stood it wasn’t accessible to millions of people.
Fortunately, the latest court decision strikes down these arbitrarily high bars to getting a license to carry.
Writing for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas stated, “We do think respondents err in their attempt to characterize New York’s proper-cause requirement as a ‘sensitive-place’ law.” He went on to explain that the state of New York viewed “sensitive places” as “anywhere where people typically congregate and where law-enforcement and other public-safety professionals are presumptively available.” In short, they crafted their law so that basically no one could utilize their right to self-defense.
He also included this fire quote in the brief, “We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need. That is not how the First Amendment works when it comes to unpopular speech or the free exercise of religion. It is not how the Sixth Amendment works when it comes to a defendant’s right to confront the witnesses against him. And it is not how the Second Amendment works when it comes to public carry for self-defense.”
But while this is a very common-sense and proper decision, the weeping and gnashing of teeth began almost instantly on the far corners of the Left.
It is outrageous that at a moment of national reckoning on gun violence, the Supreme Court has recklessly struck down a New York law that limits those who can carry concealed weapons.
— Governor Kathy Hochul (@GovKathyHochul) June 23, 2022
How tone-deaf to America’s very real gun violence epidemic can the majority in the Supreme Court be?
This is a disgrace.
— Ana Navarro-Cárdenas (@ananavarro) June 23, 2022
Some lefties even went so far as to… call for limiting the scope and power of the federal government through nullification. Which is just, high key funny. Sir, give us back our talking point.
It has become necessary to dissolve the Supreme Court of the United States.
The first step is for a state the "court" has now forced guns upon, to ignore this ruling.
Great. You're a court? Why and how do think you can enforce your rulings?#IgnoreTheCourt
— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) June 23, 2022
But, while reactionaries and political pundits are quick to meltdown online, it’s important to remember there are a lot of smart, principled progressives doing the real work of public policy in the field. And when it comes to those working on criminal justice reform, the vast majority of the country would likely be surprised to find they’re not all that keen on gun control.
I had the privilege of working alongside many such progressives during my own time in the criminal justice field, and let me tell you, if these were the voices at the national level of their movement they’d be a whole lot further ahead.
One such group of advocates issued a statement in response to the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association decision actually stating that it did not go far enough in eradicating the rot of racist gun control laws from the books.
Today’s SCOTUS ruling in NYSRPA v Bruen strikes down the carry provision of NYS gun law; however, it fails to address the discriminatory nature of the underlying gun licensing scheme and the criminalization of Black and brown New Yorkers.https://t.co/qe3YUYnZ8f pic.twitter.com/F7w6rfo93Q
— The Bronx Defenders (@BronxDefenders) June 23, 2022
The letter was signed by the Black Attorneys of Legal Aid, The Bronx Defenders, Brooklyn Defender Services, Monroe County Public Defender, Ontario County Conflict Defender’s Office, Ontario County Public Defender, Oneida County Public Defender, Wayne County Public Defender, and St. Lawrence County Public Defender. In it they state:
New York enacted its firearm licensing requirement in the early 20th century to prevent immigrants and people of color from possessing guns. Since its enactment, the law has justified discriminatory policing and criminalization of Black and brown people living in urban low-income communities. As public defenders, we represent too many people of color who face years in prison not for shooting, but for simply possessing an unlicensed gun — something that is legal in close to half of the country. New Yorkers prosecuted for simple gun possession are branded “criminals” and “violent felons” for life, facing mandatory prison sentences, separation from their communities and families, and an inability to maintain stable employment and housing. That is why we and other public defenders across the state filed an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to put an end to New York’s discriminatory gun licensing scheme. Today’s ruling strikes down the carry provision of the law; however, it fails to address the discriminatory nature of the underlying gun licensing scheme and the criminalization of Black and brown New Yorkers.
They continue, “Over 90% of the people prosecuted for unlicensed gun possession in New York City are Black and brown. These are the people impacted by New York’s discriminatory gun licensing scheme, which has fueled the criminalization and incarceration of young New Yorkers of color. As the last two years have shown us, even short periods in New York City jails can be a death sentence.”
Now that’s based.
And these groups weren’t the only ones speaking out either. The Legal Aid Society released its own statement as well. “As lawmakers consider next steps in response to this decision, let us be abundantly clear: it would amount to a historic disservice to both public safety and the best interests of New Yorkers for Albany to reproduce a regulatory scheme that perpetuates the same disparate outcomes yielded under the previous law or to further criminalize gun ownership. Criminalization has never prevented violence and serves only to further marginalize and incarcerate people from BIPOC communities,” they state.
Again, super based.
Gun control is, and has always been, inarguably systemically racist. It has also never been a cure for violence. The best and brightest working on the frontlines of these issues in our system know this, no matter what their political persuasion is. And it’s this kind of consistency, along with an informed, nuanced understanding of public policies, we so lack in our system.
Too many people want to weigh in on public policy without taking the time to truly educate themselves and learn from those on the ground. In doing so, they often end up harming the most vulnerable people in society through their own ignorance.
Listen to the experts on this one. You don’t have to like guns or want to own a gun, but pushing for these kinds of regulations hurts people.