December 7, 2022

JUDICIAL ACTIVISM: New York gun laws ruled unconstitutional by Supreme Court

JUDGE MENTAL: Clarence Thomas just set civil rights back a few more decades

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If you’re feeling a lot less safe today after the Supreme Court ruled that New York State’s laws requiring that its citizens show a special need for self-defense in order to be issued a license to carry a handgun outside the home were an unconstitutional restriction on those citizens’ Second Amendment rights, perhaps you can make yourself feel better by investing in stocks of companies manufacturing bulletproof vests and other ballistic wear that are almost certainly sure to rise in the wake of today’s decision.

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The ruling, which was penned by ultra-conservative Justice Clarence Thomas — who many have called to resign from the Court because of his wife’s alleged involvement in the planning of the January 6th, 2021 insurrection at the Capitol — passed on a vote of 6-3 with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett concurring with Thomas.

The liberal wing of the current court, Justice Stephen Breyer — who filed a fiery dissent — and Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, all voted to keep the current New York law intact.

Justice Thomas framed his decision in the case of  New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen as a straightforward application of the legal theories put forward in earlier gun rights cases that the court has ruled on, such as District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago (2010).

“[W]e recognized that the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect the right of an ordinary, law-abiding citizen to possess a handgun in the home for self-defense,” Thomas says in his written opinion. “In this case, petitioners and respondents agree that ordinary, law-abiding citizens have a similar right to carry handguns publicly for their self-defense.”

“We too agree, and now hold, consistent with Heller and McDonald, that the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home,” Thomas continued.

Justice Breyer’s dissent savaged the legal arguments underpinning Justice Thomas’ decision.

“In 2020, 45,222 Americans were killed by firearms…Since the start of this year (2022), there have been 277 reported mass shootings —an average of more than one per day… Gun violence has now surpassed motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of death among children and adolescents,” Breyer began. “Many states have tried to address some of the dangers of gun violence just described by passing laws that limit, in various ways, who may purchase, carry, or use firearms of different kinds. The Court today severely burdens States’ efforts to do so. It invokes the Second Amendment to strike down a New York law regulating the public carriage of concealed handguns. In my view, that decision rests upon several serious mistakes.”

Breyer went on to criticize the majority opinion as tying the hands of state officials as they struggle to find a solution to the mounting problems of gun violence.

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“The question before us concerns the extent to which the Second Amendment prevents democratically elected officials from enacting laws to address the serious problem of gun violence,” Breyer wrote. “And yet the Court today purports to answer that question without discussing the nature or severity of that problem.”

Breyer and other legal experts take issue with the idea that the Second Amendment guarantees any right to gun ownership for the purpose of self-defense, a term that, unlike “well-regulated militia,” appears nowhere in the text of the Bill of Rights. Another issue with the ruling is the fact that Thomas claims that states can’t issue restrictions on Second Amendment rights because historically they haven’t done so in the past, when, in fact, the New York law that they struck down was over 100 years old.

New York State Governor Kathy Hochul (D) responded to the Supreme Court ruling by calling it “absolutely shocking” and calling for a special legislative session to find a constitutional way to prevent an explosion of new gun violence.

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New York City Mayor Eric Adams lamented that the ruling would lead to a new era of “the wild West” in the city.

According to The Washington Post:

“Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement Thursday that the court’s ruling ‘severely undermines public safety not just in New York City, but around the country’ and will make it ‘more difficult to limit the number of guns in our communities.’ His office has been preparing for the decision and is crafting gun safety legislation that will ‘take the strongest steps possible to mitigate the damage done today,’ he said.”

“’The Supreme Court may have made our work harder, but we will only redouble our efforts to develop new solutions to end the epidemic of gun violence and ensure lasting public safety.,’” Bragg vowed.

Social media also exploded in outrage at the new decision.

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With laws similar to New York State’s in at least eight other states and the District of Columbia affected by today’s ruling, the future of gun regulation in the United States has been upended by the right-wing extremists who now control a majority on The Supreme Court.

If there was ever an argument for expanding the number of Justices on the Court, today’s ruling makes it all the more compelling.

Original reporting by Aaron Keller at Law & Crime.

Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.  

Vinnie Longobardo

is the Managing Editor of Washington Press and a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile, & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.

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