Justices Who Favor Gun Rights Fear Roberts Does Not
(Bloomberg Opinion) - Since the beginning of the wars of culture in the 1960s, Americans have been fighting for weapons with increasing intensity. This week, the US Supreme Court decided to sit back and let the battle rage. The court decided not to hear 10 different cases of gun rights, including some that would have allowed judges to clarify important questions about the scope of the second change.
The court has not ruled a major gun case since 2010, when it said that the second amendment applies to states and cities. Gun rights advocates, whose appetite was sparked by the landmark District of Columbia 2008 ruling against Heller, which established an individual right to own weapons, had hoped to get dozens of additional victories before the Supreme Court. But something is stopping their progress.
Four judges are required to accept a case. There is little doubt that judges Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas are strong on gun rights. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, when he was a member of a lower court, wrote a statement so gung-ho that it reads like an audition for a job with the National Rifle Association (or maybe a plea for support for the NRA that was later filed, e.g. a seat on the Supreme Court).
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Why did the court refuse to hear cases? "There was no lack of a good case," wrote Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California at Los Angeles and the author of a book on the long history of the conflict over arms rights in the United States, on Twitter. "These 10 asked the judges all important open questions regarding the scope of the [second amendment]."
The majority opinion of Justice Antonin Scalia in Heller left unanswered fundamental questions such as whether arms rights extend outside the home and whether powerful but popular semi-automatic rifles can be banned. If the four pro-gun judges refused to take cases to clarify these rights, Winkler suspects that they fear that Chief Justice John Roberts would join the court's four liberals to form a majority.
"The long and the short thing is that it is becoming increasingly clear that Roberts is not in favor of expansive reading of the second amendment," wrote Winkler.
Many gun rights in America are not national. You primarily depend on where you live. In Georgia, you can legally buy a sketchy guy gun in a parking lot, load it with ammunition you bought for cash without question, and then go to a bar across the street. However, if you live in California, you will experience purchase restrictions - no large capacity magazines or rifles that are considered "attack weapons" - and you should be better prepared for a background check of ammunition and firearms purchases. You also have to skip the bar.
"Today's decision enforces decisions by several states across the country that maintain bans on large-capacity assault weapons and magazines, maintain strict standards for carrying weapons in public, and adhere to a number of state and federal weapons laws," said Adam Skaggs , Chief Counsel and Policy Director at Giffords Law Center for the Prevention of Gun Violence. “Despite the appetite of several judges to pick up new gun cases and expand the right to make a second change, they have to wait another day. However, there is no shortage of other cases in the pipeline, so the court doesn't have to wait too long before it has another chance. "
Due to the reluctance of the court, the politicians are responsible. After Heller's decision, states have moved in opposite directions regarding arms rights, depending on whether they are dominated by Democrats or Republicans. However, given the ease with which weapons move across national borders, the lax laws of the red states affect crime and violence everywhere. A 2014 report found that 60% of the weapons that were used to commit crimes in Chicago from 2009 to 2013 came from another state.
There is a firearm industry in the United States that employs 150,000 people and has a direct economic impact of $ 24 billion. This leaves a lot of money to invest in politics and law as well as in marketing and public relations. In addition, some Americans love weapons the way others love their pets. And because arms extremists are part of a reactionary coalition that is housed in one of the two main political parties, they are overrepresented in US politics.
The urge to contain the pathologies of weapon culture is similarly fundamental. About 100,000 Americans are shot every year, and both mass shootings and single-gun deaths in the United States are so numerous that it makes no sense to compare them to those of other industrialized nations. Children die because parents leave loaded weapons easily accessible. In the face of mass death, the gun lobby and its political allies have a political answer: more guns, fewer restrictions.
The competing visions of gun rights cannot be easily reconciled. Each is based on the shaky foundation of the second constitutional amendment, an awkwardly composed non-sequitur that was conjured up in an age of raw technology. The Supreme Court has initially decided to let the confusion prevail.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editors or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
Francis Wilkinson writes editorials for politics and US domestic policy for Bloomberg Opinion. He was the editor-in-chief of the week. Previously, he was a Rolling Stone writer, communications consultant and political media strategist.
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