Welcome to the second week of The Reload. As I mentioned in the free newsletter, it was a busy one, and that means we’ve got plenty to talk about. Let’s get rolling.
What Will the Supreme Court Do?
Here we have it. The biggest question in guns this week and for the foreseeable future: What will the Supreme Court do in its first-ever gun-carry case?
The answer to that has huge implications for gun laws at every level of government. Yes, the case only deals directly with New York’s restrictive “may issue” gun-carry law and whether its government officials should have the discretion to deny law-abiding applicants who want to carry for self-defense. However, 7 other states have very similar laws, and together those states govern more than 25 percent of the population.
But the outcome could be far broader than that. The Supreme Court established in 2008’s District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment protects the right to keep commonly owned firearms such as handguns inside your own home for self-defense. But the Court hasn’t weighed in on how or even if Second Amendment protections extend outside the home.
If the Court decides New York’s law violates the Second Amendment because gun rights extend beyond the home, that could open up challenges to a wide swath of other gun laws on the books. And how the Court decides the case could determine whether those laws survive scrutiny even before they make it to SCOTUS. If the Court says a high level of scrutiny is required for all laws that impact gun rights, that will spell doom for many laws in force today across the country.
The immediate reaction from gun-rights groups and gun-control groups alike seemed to assume the Court would do exactly that. Gun advocates were ecstatic, and gun-control groups were pissed.
Each side seemed to be basing their assessments on the simple math of a Court made up of six Republican appointees and three Democratic ones. But the immediate reaction from legal experts pointed to a more complicated picture. There are no guarantees when it comes to predicting how the Court will rule, and there are some signs the outcome may not be the home run desired by gun advocates.
Professor Robert Leider, a gun scholar from George Mason University, said the Court might uphold New York’s law and thereby set gun-rights activists back—or even cause them to reconsider their coalition with the Republican Party.
Personally, I think the justices took a major-issue case like this because they want to expand their incredibly limited jurisprudence on the Second Amendment. I don’t see them punting on this one now. I doubt they will go as far as eliminating permitting for gun carry, but I could see them eliminating “may issue” regimes and forcing states to adopt the more common “shall issue” standard, so that bureaucratic discretion is taken out of the process.
I plan on exploring this more in an analysis piece and a Q&A this week. So, make sure you look for that.
What Will the Judge in the NRA Bankruptcy Do?
The last day of testimony in the NRA’s bankruptcy trial was Thursday. The most notable new information was Wayne LaPierre revealing the NRA’s membership is at 4.89 million. That’s down from eight years ago when LaPierre announced the group had reached 5 million members and set a goal of 10 million. It represents a serious long-term problem for the powerful gun group.
But the short term is just as dangerous for the NRA.
Closing arguments in the trial are set for Monday. After that, Judge Harlin Hale will have to decide what to do with the group’s bankruptcy. He could allow the bankruptcy to move forward with LaPierre and other NRA leadership intact. He could dismiss the case for being filed in bad faith. He could appoint a trustee to displace LaPierre and run the organization while it finishes bankruptcy. Or he could appoint an examiner to audit the group and report their findings to a committee of NRA members who will oversee the group’s reorganization.
Those are the options presented to him by the different parties in the case. With that in mind, here’s the question he told the lawyers he wanted them to answer on Monday:
“While one purpose of chapter 11 is to prevent the unnecessary dissolution of an otherwise viable debtor,” Hale said, “is that purpose broad enough to include a situation where the debtor is seeking protection from a potential dissolution that would not be a collateral effect of litigation, but rather the intended relief sought and would only occur upon a judicial determination that dissolution is in the best interest of the public?”
The question includes a mix of points from each side. The NRA has argued the group isn’t currently in financial trouble, but bankruptcy is still appropriate because New York Attorney General Letitia James (D.) wants to dissolve the group and seize its assets. They accuse her of engaging in political persecution, and they need to use bankruptcy to get out from under her thumb. James accuses the NRA of filing in bad faith to use bankruptcy to escape a legitimate prosecution. Her attorneys have also argued that, even if the NRA could prove James was biased against the NRA, the punishments she seeks could only be granted by a judge through the course of normal legal proceedings. So, the judge would also have to be biased against the NRA for the group’s concerns to matter.
It’s hard for me to read that question and not see the obvious answer as no. I mean, it boils down to “can you use bankruptcy to escape a lawsuit?”
But this is a first-of-its-kind case, and the judge seems to be carefully considering every argument from every party involved. He’s asked directly for James to give him an explanation of what she would actually do with NRA’s assets if she got them. He certainly seemed to believe that was relevant, and she never really gave him a straight answer.
So, it’s entirely possible this first-of-its-kind case could yield a first-of-its-kind decision.
The Continued Ammo Crisis and Its Side Effects
I went back to the range again on Saturday. This time I was helping a friend learn how to properly work their new pump-action shotgun. It’s their first gun, and I always enjoy helping folks through that process.
But a few things stuck out to me during this particular late-morning trip.
The first was the price of ammo. I stopped in at a new gun store near my local range to check the place out. It had a pretty decent stock of guns, and it even had 9mm for sale. The downside? It was a freaking dollar per round! $50 for a box of 50. That’s more than three times what it used to be just before the pandemic. No, thank you.
The second thing I noticed was how empty the range was. It’s hard to think that’s not connected to the first problem. My local range was completely out of most range ammo. Not only can you not buy it to take out the door anymore, now you can’t even buy it to use on the range! So, it’s no surprise there basically wasn’t anyone left on the range by the time we left.
No ammo = no range time. It’s as simple as that. I mean, there was a guy there literally selling 12 gauge birdshot out of his trunk for a dollar per round. That’s how nuts things have gotten.
I believe the major ammunition manufacturers have simply underestimated the staying power of this demand surge. I think they expected things to settle back down to 2019 demand after a while—not a crazy assumption given how demand has fluctuated in the past. But this demand spike has settled in much higher than what they expected or what they can keep up with.
I’ve scheduled interviews with some ammo manufacturers later this week, so stay tuned for more on that soon.
In the meantime, I bought a cheap little .22LR single-action revolver, and now I’m considering getting into cowboy action competitions. I’m talking the full dress-up and everything, the whole nine yards. What do you guys think?
That’s it for now. I’ll talk to you all again next week.