People in politics and the media are feigning surprise at the Supreme Court’s striking down a century-old New York State law restricting the carrying of guns in public. Any sentient watcher of the court knew this was coming, based just on conservative justice dissents in recent gun cases (or refusal to hear gun cases).
In 2008, in District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court recognized an individual right to keep guns in the home for self-defense. Since then, it has been almost silent on the scope of Second Amendment rights.
Indeed, the court for many years turned down countless appeals in Second Amendment cases. In the meantime, lower courts generally sustained gun control laws.
But they were divided on the question posed by the case from New York: whether states can stop law-abiding citizens from carrying guns outside their homes for self-defense unless they can satisfy the authorities that they have a good reason for doing so.
Last year, for instance, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco upheld Hawaii’s law by a 7-to-4 vote.
“Our review of more than 700 years of English and American legal history reveals a strong theme: Government has the power to regulate arms in the public square,” Judge Jay S. Bybee, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, wrote for the majority.
The federal appeals court in Chicago, on the other hand, struck down an Illinois law that banned carrying guns in public. And a federal appeals court in Washington struck down a restrictive District of Columbia law that it said amounted to “a total ban on most D.C. residents’ right to carry a gun.”
The court’s reluctance to hear Second Amendment cases changed as its membership shifted to the right in recent years. President Donald J. Trump’s three appointees — Justices Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — have all expressed support for gun rights.
And the Supreme Court’s most conservative members have long deplored the court’s reluctance to explore the meaning and scope of the Second Amendment.
Those of us who lived through horrible SCOTUS decisions like Bowers v. Hardwick learned a painful lesson about SCOTUS supremacy — and that, when all is said and done, the Supreme Court should be the only prize in progressive eyes during general elections.
By all means, during presidential election primary season, flirt all you want with third-party candidates and trash-talking the Democratic frontrunner(s).
But when the convention is over and the nominee has been chosen, it’s time to put away your differences, because even the worst Democratic nominee is far better than any Republican being able to pack the Supreme Court, especially now that the GOP is controlled by such fascist impulses.
At the time of the Clinton v. Trump election, I had so many younger people call my perspective “old” and “old-fashioned” and “out of touch.” People with little-to-no knowledge of SCOTUS’ place in our governmental hierarchy were lecturing me that I was being shrill and alarmist.
This gun decision is the tip of the spear for this radicalized Supreme Court. We will not recognize the America we will have when they are done. If you think it’s difficult now to effect progressive change, just wait.
And, no, it doesn’t ultimately accomplish much to relitigate the Clinton-Trump election. But it is instructive to realize how wrong people were then, and how much party unity (which Republicans are masters at) would have prevented what is going to be a wholesale fascist restructuring of American society.
But it also kinda feels good to be able to tell young people who made fun of your views because you’re old, “Yeah, who’s out of touch now, asshole?”
The causes I cared about, and worked on my entire adult life, are being set back and destroyed, and I most certainly will not live long enough to see all these horrible changes reversed. The progress I envisioned in my lifetime will never come to pass.
I think that’s worth at least a bit of a political pout, don’t you?
(EDIT: After I wrote this piece, SCOTUS basically, according to some legal experts, destroyed Miranda rights. The legal mischiefs that could come from police and prosecutors in the wake of this this ruling … well, it’s difficult to imagine because, even with Miranda rights in place, police and prosecutors tried a lot of end-runs around the Constitution.)