The conservative justices of the Supreme Court of the United States have just made America an even more dangerous, even more violent place.
The decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn, Inc v. Bruen passed a simple, common-sense New York State law requiring individuals to have a license to own a firearm and obliging people who wish to carry a concealed pistol or revolver. in public to demonstrate a particular need to carry a secret weapon. This law is on the books in New York since the early 1900s.
The Supreme Court has just struck it down in a decision that is an extreme extension of the largely invented and now nearly unlimited individual right to own and bear lethal weapons. And that doesn’t bode well for future efforts to impose the slightest restriction on guns — to make it as difficult to get a gun as getting, say, a driver’s license. or an abortion. This sweeping, nihilistic move potentially challenges a slew of state gun laws — and will propel the United States further toward mass gun violence and a culture of death.
The case was brought by two New York men who, according to the notice, “both requested unlimited licenses to carry a handgun in public due to their widespread interest in self-defense.” The court, in an opinion written by Judge Clarence Thomas, said “New York’s just cause requirement violates the Fourteenth Amendment by preventing law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right of second amendment to hold and bear arms in public in self-defense”.
Only in America does a “widespread interest in self-defense” give an individual the almost unlimited right to possess a lethal weapon and the right to endanger all other members of a community; only in America is the purported right to carry a concealed deadly weapon in public an “ordinary need for self-defense” that supersedes the rights of everyone to be free from gun violence.
In no other wealthy democracy is any of this “ordinary”.
And in no other wealthy democracy is America’s rate of gun violence ordinary.
This case follows two decades of an increasingly conservative Supreme Court radically expanding access to guns. And as access to firearms has dramatically expanded, so too has gun violence. Last year saw a staggering number of gun deaths: over 20,700, and that excludes suicides, which in 2020 accounted for more than half of gun deaths. There were hundreds of mass shootings last year and a far greater number of handgun killings that have become woven into the fabric of American culture, so commonplace they often don’t even make the headlines. evening newspapers.
What is particularly striking in this case, however, is that the court largely dismisses any concern for public safety. After all, there are good public safety reasons why a state may not want to grant an individual the legal right to carry a concealed weapon in public for no reason other than to want one. More guns equal more gun violence – it’s a clear calculation, backed up by decades of research, at this point undeniable (except by the politically motivated to deny facts and reality).
New York has long concluded, reasonably enough, that it doesn’t want some random person carrying a gun on the subway, or in a school, or in a grocery store. Having a group of armed people around increases the chances of any conflict becoming deadly; it increases the chances of an accident becoming fatal; this pretty much guarantees that people who don’t need a gun, who are just macho, insecure, paranoid and prone to violence, will be able to get their hands on it and enjoy the freedom of take it wherever they want.
The Supreme Court, in an opinion signed by the institution’s so-called “states’ rights” conservatives, said states have no right to regulate guns in this way.
The move comes about a month after a gunman murdered 19 children and two adults in Uvalde, Texas, while police were helpless outside. It comes about a month after 10 people were murdered at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York by a white supremacist. In the wake of these two shootings – simply the latest mass killings of African Americans and school children – American politicians have done absolutely nothing to curb our out-of-control gun culture and staggering rates of gun violence.
More Americans have been killed by firearms since 1968 than soldiers in all of America’s wars combined. An incredible 1.5 million Americans died from gunshot wounds between 1986 and 2017. Nearly 80% of homicides in the United States are firearm-related; in the UK it’s 4%. And for every 100 U.S. residents, there are more than 120 guns – the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world (Yemen, with about 53 guns per 100 people, ranks far behind behind).
Time and time again, the United States will relive The Onion’s now famous headline: “‘No way to prevent it,’ says the only nation where it regularly happens.”
The reality is that while mass shootings are devastating and shocking, handguns carried by individual citizens wreak more widespread, albeit quieter, havoc. Part of what New York law is trying to prevent is the violent escalation of the kinds of altercations that have already become much more heated during Covid: people yelling at customer service employees; aggressive drivers who fuel road rage incidents; patients and family members threatening and attacking healthcare workers; adults who lose their minds at school board meetings. These types of rage incidents are usually not planned in advance, but they can turn deadly quickly if one party (or more) is armed. A law cannot prevent a weapon from falling into the hands of a careful and premeditated killer. But a law like New York’s has kept guns out of reach for average citizens if they are prone to violence when in public. This reality is no more.
The devastating truth is that the current tribunal is made up of a majority of right-wing nihilistic radicals seeking to impose their vision of a heavily armed, male-dominated Christian theocracy on the rest of us. This gun case is just a taste of where we are headed: towards more violence, more deaths and fewer individual rights – apart, of course, from the ability to own, to conceal and carry just about anywhere as many weapons of death and destruction. like one wants.