As anticipated, last week the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen to strike down New York State’s limits on concealed weapon permits. The law required applicants show “proper cause” and “good moral character” to obtain a concealed weapon permit. The ruling also changed how gun laws are tested. It’s the most significant victory for the murder lobby since Columbia v. Heller in 2008, which for the first time gave legitimacy to an interpretation of the Second Amendment as protecting personal gun rights. (The Second Amendment itself has always been ambiguous, establishing the right of a “well-regulated militia” to bear arms, which at the time it was written, basically granted towns the right to establish their own police force – a necessity for frontier settlements, who might come under attack from any number of sources.)
As someone who leans toward a libertarian bent and believes strongly in personal liberty, I suppose this ruling could be interpreted as a defense of freedom. I also believe the Supreme Court has lost its purpose in recent years, forgetting it is supposed to be a check on governmental power, not an agent of it. But as a scientist and safety advocate, this is a horrible ruling that promotes more murder and death, and the logic it’s premised upon is complete fallacy.
This decision does two things: 1) It essentially strips states of their ability to restrict concealed weapons or limit where guns are carried, and 2) It changes the standard by which the viability of gun restrictions are measured.
For those not familiar with constitutional law, all constitutional rights have always been subject to a “legitimate government interest” exception. This means, in essence, that constitutional rights have never been guaranteed or absolute. You have the freedom of speech or expression only up to the point where it conflicts against a “legitimate government interest,” at which point the government can take that right away if they can establish a legitimate purpose for doing so and convince a judge it is necessary.
Up until this ruling, gun legislation has also been subjected to his two-step standard: 1) Whether a gun law restricts Second Amendment rights, and 2) Whether that regulation advances an important government interest that would justify the restriction.
After this ruling, that two-pronged test has been abolished, so now the only thing to decide is whether a gun law restricts Second Amendment rights. The inevitable result of this ruling will be a complete gutting of any ability to sustain common sense gun legislation. Lower courts always stretch these rulings as far as they can take them, so if there’s no balancing test, how can any gun legislation stand? We’ll have to wait and see where this takes us, but theoretically, if the only question is whether something infringes upon a person’s “right” to bear arms, private citizens should be able to own military tanks, private jets and machine guns too, along with missile defense systems if they choose.
Justice Thomas (you know, the treasonous one whose wife should be arrested in the near future for her efforts attempting to overthrow the U.S. government after Trump lost the election), admitted this decision has “controversial public safety implications.” Yet writing for the majority, he defended this ruling by saying that “the Second and 14th Amendments protect an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.” It’s those two little words (self-defense) that make this entire ruling a sham built upon fiction.
Guns are not, have not, and never will be a useful tool for self-defense. They are an assault weapon and a tool for the battlefield, but they have never been a practical way for everyday citizens to defend themselves, a myth we thoroughly debunk in our book Guns for Protection? If you are mugged, your mugger will have his knife or gun in your face before you realize what is happening. If you are a woman being raped or overpowered by a man, all a gun does is give your attacker 1 more weapon to use against you. If someone is planning a home invasion, they’ll knock on your door like a salesman or Jehovah’s Witnesses, and then be on top of you before you know what’s happening. Burglars rely on concealment, and your voice is every bit as much of a deterrent as a gun. Even in the wilderness, you’re more likely to die in a confrontation with a bear when armed with a gun than when armed with bear spray.
When it comes to mass shootings, unarmed citizens have a far better success rate stopping attacks than armed ones, and live simulations have shown having a gun makes you more likely to die, not less so. Even when people are able to pull their weapon, they shoot innocent people by mistake with stray bullets and errant shots far more often than they hit their intended target. Guns are only useful if you’re the attacker. As a responsive weapon, they are obsolete.
The ratio of gun tragedy to legitimate self-defense is so bad that you have to endure around 1,000 tragedies for every situation where a gun might prove actually useful in legitimate self-defense (as opposed to shooting a retreating burglar in the back, which gun advocates like to claim as self-defense, but really isn’t. It’s like the most twisted game of Russian roulette ever invented. Guns are akin to cigarettes: Unless you’re a hunter or an aggressor, they’re a useless product that causes needless death and destruction.
Carrying a gun does, however, give people a God complex and turn ordinary situations deadly. It turns arguments into violent confrontations, and fist fights into killings. To a large degree it really is the gun that kills people, because the presence of the gun serves to escalate everyday conflict, creating death in places it wouldn’t have occurred before.
Rather egregiously, Justice Alito pompously mocked dissenters who expressed concerns about gun violence, saying “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.” No, Alito, you idiot, it is you who seems not to understand that the very fact that so many people are carrying guns is what creates this gun violence in the first place. Murder and gun violence both rise in lockstep with the number of people carrying guns. Most murders involve otherwise “law-abiding citizens” losing their temper and using their gun. The more people carry, the more murder we have. Period. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle of doom: More people with guns = more murder, which = more paranoid people feeling they need a gun for “protection,” which leads to more murder still. Great for the murder lobby, horrible for society. Promoting a safety myth that puts more people in danger (including the gun carriers themselves) is not a rational response to gun violence.
The majority justices did make note that this ruling shouldn’t be interpreted to prevent governments from keeping gins out of places like courthouses. So Thomas, Kavanaugh, and the other conservative judges seem to be okay with you being shot, or your children being shot, so long as they themselves are not shot. If these justices truly believe this nonsense, they should stand by their principles and invite anyone and everyone to carry a gun into their chambers and courthouses. After all, more guns means more safety, right? Stand by your logic, you cowards.
I also find it ironic how selectively these justices defend liberty. Even as they obliterate abortion rights, set their sights on greater regulation of people’s private lives, or look to muzzle speech in schools, they turn around and sight “liberty” as a reason to allow every yahoo with a gun to endanger those around them. The Second Amendment is not the only constitutional right that stands absolute. In two decades we’ve gone from debating weather the Second Amendment protects personal gun rights at all to making it the only constitutional “right” exempt from this two-pronged test. The freedom of speech, the right to free expression, the right to due process, the power to petition the government – all these other far more important constitutional rights are still subject to checks and balances. But apparently not your “right” to endanger the public by carrying a gun every where you go, so that you can pull it out any time you feel threatened or anyone offends you.
Unfortunately, this is what you get when a group of old men who are lawyers by training – ignorant, uneducated, and misinformed in the subjects they rule upon – are given the power to let their prejudices dictated the lives of everyone else. The Supreme Court might as well just start conducting a lottery every year, pulling 20,000 or 30,000 Americans from the population at random and executing them on the lawn of the courthouse. Gun violence now equals or surpasses car accidents as the number ONE killer in America. It left 45,222 people dead in 2020 alone. The reason for the recent surge is weaker gun laws, and in particular the expansion of gun carry laws. This ruling is certain to send murder rates soaring even further. Gun deaths 80,00 or 100,000 per year, here we come.
Of course, what the Supreme Court does is irrelevant if people start making informed decisions on their own. So I urge all gun owners to learn the facts about how impractical guns truly are as a tool for self defense and exercise their freedom responsibly. Do yourself and those around you a favor: please leave your guns locked in a box at home.