By Jake Johnson / Common Dreams
The National Rifle Association’s decades-long campaign against even the most basic and popular firearm regulations scored another victory Thursday when the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key New York state gun control law, a ruling that could spell doom for similar statutes across the country.
The NRA has spent big in recent years to fill state and federal courts—including the Supreme Court—with judges that are hostile to gun regulations. In 2017, the gun lobby dropped $1 million on ads supporting former President Donald Trump’s nomination of Justice Neil Gorsuch, a successful campaign that it repeated in subsequent years to ensure the confirmation of Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.
All three of those judges—along with Justice Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts—supported Justice Clarence Thomas’ new majority opinion invalidating New York’s century-old restrictions on the concealed carry of firearms in public. The law required those applying for permits to carry guns outside the home to demonstrate “proper cause” to do so;
All three liberal justices opposed the decision.
Observers quickly voiced concern that the court’s ruling could imperil gun control laws in other states and undermine local lawmakers’ ability to combat mass shootings, which have taken hundreds of lives in the U.S. this year.
“The Court That Dark Money Built just handed a massive win to a gun industry that drives horrific violence in this country,” Sen Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said in a statement. “The NRA, gun manufacturers, and their dark-money allies have spearheaded a ‘project’ to wipe all commonsense gun safety laws off the books.”
Whitehouse warned that the Supreme Court’s decision Thursday brings the gun lobby “a step closer” to eviscerating gun-safety measures nationwide.
“Now,” the senator said, “more deadly weapons will flow into communities that have taken sensible steps to protect their citizens from violence.”
The NRA, which assisted the legal challenge against the New York law, has worked tirelessly for years to mainstream an interpretation of the Second Amendment that conservative Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger once described as “a fraud on the American public.” The gun lobby’s efforts bore fruit in 2008, when the Supreme Court ruled for the first time in District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to own a gun.
As the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday, the high court’s ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen is “the most significant victory” for gun control opponents since 2008.
“It also reflects how President Trump’s three appointees have shifted the court to the right,” the newspaper noted. “In the last decade, the court had turned away challenges to the permitting laws in California and elsewhere. But the arrival of Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett created a majority to bolster the right to carry a gun.”
“Gun control advocates had said they feared a high court ruling upholding the right to be armed in public could lead to a massive increase in the number of guns on the street in major cities,” the Times added.
NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre enthusiastically applauded the Supreme Court’s ruling in a statement, calling the decision “a watershed win” and attributing it to the organization’s long-running “fight” against gun-safety regulations.
Jason Ouimet, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, said the lobbying group “has been at the forefront of this movement for over 30 years and was proud to bring this successful challenge to New York’s unconstitutional law.”
The Supreme Court’s ruling came as the Senate worked to advance a gun-related legislative package that critics have decried as woefully inadequate given its exclusion of a ban on assault rifles, universal background checks, and other popular measures.
The bill, titled the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, cleared a key procedural hurdle Thursday as advocates raised alarm over the far-reaching implications of the high court’s decision.
“Today, the Supreme Court made it clear that it cares more about protecting the interests of the gun lobby than American lives,” said Christina Harvey, executive director of Stand Up America. “This isn’t by accident; the lawmakers who confirmed the court’s ultraconservative supermajority were bought and paid for by the NRA. This decision achieves one of their ultimate goals: bringing more guns into public spaces with no consideration for human life.”
“Contrary to the opinions of the Supreme Court’s ultraconservative majority, most Americans believe gun safety laws should be stronger, not weaker,” Harvey added. “The gun violence epidemic in America threatens all of us—but it disproportionately endangers and kills Black, brown, and low-income Americans. To Donald Trump’s wing of the Supreme Court, these lives are simply collateral damage.”