Gun-rights advocates and gun-control advocates both notched historic wins this week.
While the Senate passed the first new gun restrictions in several decades, the Supreme Court handed down the first significant expansion of gun rights in over a decade. Of course, while the Senate bill is a step in the direction gun-control advocates have been pursuing for a long time, it doesn’t include most of their top priorities. The Supreme Court’s ruling, on the other hand, delivered on two of the top priorities of gun-rights advocates.
The Senate added juvenile records to the background check system, set up a special background check process for those under 21, expanded domestic violence misdemeanor prohibitions to “dating partners,” and redefined the standard for who needs to obtain a federal license to sell guns legally. Those are significant changes that could affect millions of Americans. But they aren’t an “assault weapons” ban or universal background checks, as Senator John Cornyn (R., Texas) has noted repeatedly.
The Supreme Court both struck down New York’s restrictive “may issue” gun-carry permitting law and expanded on how all gun cases should be decided moving forward. Each of those has been a goal for the gun-rights movement for years. And both will have significant effects in the short and long term.
I look at exactly what those effects might be in a piece for Reload Members.
Of course, those weren’t the only two stories this week. We also saw the White House back off its plan to choke off a significant civilian supply of ammunition commonly used in AR-15s. Rhode Island instituted a magazine confiscation bill and new age restrictions on gun purchases. Polling shows increased support for new gun-control laws except in one key area.
The family of a heroic civilian who stopped an active shooter also filed suit this week against the police officer who mistakenly killed him. And Contributing Writer Jake Fogleman examines when we should expect to see the political impact of how politicians respond to the Uvalde school shooting.
Plus, Politico’s Burgess Everett gives insight into how the Senate gun negotiations played out on Capitol Hill.
Supreme Court Strikes Down New York Gun-Carry Law
By Stephen Gutowski
New York’s restrictive gun-carry licensing scheme violates the Second Amendment.
That’s the ruling of the Supreme Court in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association (NYSRPA) v. Bruen. The 6-3 decision, handed down on Thursday, invalidates the state’s process for issuing concealed carry permits. The Court found that allowing government officials to use subjective discretion when determining which applicants had a “good reason” to need a permit violated the Constitution, a decision which will impact at least seven other states.
“The constitutional right to bear arms in public for selfdefense is not ‘a second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees,'” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the Court. “We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need.”
The Supreme Court has issued its first significant Second Amendment ruling in over a decade, but what does it mean?
The immediate impact of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen ruling will be on gun-carry laws in places like New York, California, and Massachusetts–anywhere that currently employs a “may-issue” permitting system for concealed carry. Those laws will be struck down or repealed in line with the Supreme Court’s ruling over the coming weeks and months. The legislatures will have to figure out how to replace them.
Instead of empowering government officials to make subjective judgments on who they feel has a “good reason” to carry a gun, denying the vast majority of otherwise qualified applicants in practice, state lawmakers will have to find another system for gun carry. Given the political opposition to gun carry in those states, it’s unlikely they will join most of the country and move to a permitless system. But they won’t have to anyway since the Supreme Court has left open the open of adopting a “shall issue” system, which keeps in place many of the requirements of “may issue” laws, such as a background check and training, but removes the ability of the issuing official to deny applicants subjectively.
While the Court only identified a handful of states with the now-unconstitutional policy, they are some of the most populous states in the nation and upwards of one in five Americans live there. So, the consequences of that short-term change will be immense.
For context, Florida and New York have similar populations, but their divergent gun-carry permitting schemes have left the Sunshine state with more than 2.3 million concealed-carry permit holders and the Empire state with 37,800. If New York and the other “may issue” states end up with a process closer to Florida’s “shall issue” law, millions more people will likely become licensed to carry over time.
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The Senate released the finalized text of its gun deal on Tuesday, adding new kinds of gun prohibitions to federal law.
The package extends current prohibitions on gun sales to those who have disqualifying juvenile records and those convicted of misdemeanor violent crimes against “dating partners.” The bill also includes a new background check process for those 18 to 20 years old, funding for “Red Flag” laws or other state crisis intervention programs, the reclassification of who must obtain federal gun dealing licenses, and several other proposals. A bipartisan group of senators praised the deal as an appropriate response to the recent elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
“Since the shooting, my office has received tens of thousands of calls, letters, and emails with a singular message: Do something,” Senator John Cornyn (R., Texas), a negotiator from the Republican side, said in a floor speech. “Not do nothing. But do something. I think we’ve found some areas where there is some space for compromise”
The Biden administration has backed down from its reported desire to end commercial ammunition production at a Lake City, Missouri, military plant.
Winchester Ammunition and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), an industry trade group, said last week the Biden Administration was considering ending civilian overflow production at the facility. However, White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates said Tuesday that the Biden administration will not be going through with the policy.
“The administration is not going to restrict production/sales of excess ammunition currently available for sale to the public (including M855 and SS109) at Lake City Army Ammunition Plant,” Bates said in a tweet.
A new poll further substantiated a trend in recent data: Support for gun control has gone up as support for a ban on “assault weapons” has gone down.
According to a Thursday report by Gallup, the share of respondents wanting stricter laws on gun sales rose to 66 percent from 52 percent in October. But the percentage of those favoring a ban on the “manufacture, possession and sale” of assault weapons decreased to 55 percent from 61 percent in 2019. These results are on par with Quinnipiac’s report earlier this month, in which the share of respondents supporting an assault-weapons ban fell to 50 percent, even as support for stricter gun laws rose to 57 percent from 45 percent.
Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee (D.) signed a collection of gun bans on Tuesday.
The package will ban possession of ammunition magazines capable of holding more than ten rounds, raise the age to legally buy a firearm or ammunition to 21, and prohibit open carry of rifles and shotguns. McKee, who sported a shirt for the gun-control group Moms Demand Action during the signing ceremony, released a statement celebrating the state for leading the way on gun control in the wake of recent mass shootings.
“Here in Rhode Island, we’re taking meaningful action to address the scourge of gun violence and keep our residents safe,” McKee said.
The mother of a licensed concealed carrier who was killed by police after stopping an active shooter is suing the police department responsible for her son’s death.
Kathleen Boelyn, the mother of Johnny Hurley filed suit against former Arvada, Colorado police officer Kraig Brownlow and Chief of Police Link Strate on Wednesday. The suit alleges a violation of Mr. Hurley’s constitutional rights because former Officer Brownlow failed to identify himself before fatally shooting Hurley from behind.
“Mr. Hurley’s death was not the result of a misfortunate split-second judgment call gone wrong, but the result of a deliberate and unlawful use of deadly force,” the suit reads.
Senate gun negotiations carried on this week after encountering a few speed bumps.
That’s why I had another top Capitol Hill reporter on the show. This week, I’m joined by Burgess Everett of Politico. He has spent decades reporting on and talking to the key senators at the center of the gun deal.
Mary Katharine Ham joins the show for a members’ segment too. She explains her background with guns and what it’s like to do shows on CNN or ABC while being a pro-gun commentator.
Plus, Contributing Writer Jake Fogleman and I discuss Texas Governor Gregg Abbott’s (R.) policy response to the Uvalde shooting.
You can listen to the show on your favorite podcasting app or by clicking here.
The full show is also available on our YouTube channel.
How will the decision to support new gun restrictions, or the refusal to do so, in the wake of the Uvalde shooting impact the political future of Republicans?
It’s difficult to say for sure. Some have taken steps to hedge against political backlash as they consider action on gun policy. Of the ten Republican senators that worked to forge a deal on a federal gun package, for instance, four are set to retire at the end of their terms while the other six are not up for re-election this cycle. None of them will have to face voters any time soon.
Republicans that will soon face voters have been noticeably tight-lipped about their position on the package.
The state level may offer a more immediate test for how voters might reward or punish a politician based on gun policy. And nowhere is that dynamic starker than in the Lone Star State itself.
Outside The Reload
That’s it for this week in guns.
I’ll see you all next week.