The GOP’s Talk Of Second Amendment Rights Is A Fraud
The Supreme Court yesterday unanimously refused to hear appeals to assault weapons ban laws in Connecticut and New York, a tacit affirmation of the Constitutional right of our elected officials to limit the Second Amendment. Mere hours later, the Republican leadership in Congress blocked four gun control bills — two from their own party.
As our country continues to mourn one of the deadliest mass shootings in our history — a shooting made possible by a handgun and an AR-15 style assault rifle, both legally acquired — the party purchased by the National Rifle Association can’t bring themselves to even expand their beloved government surveillance programs to limit the carnage by increasing funding for and further empowering the FBI through the terror watch list. A three-pack of the most conservative justices ever to sit on the bench — Thomas, Roberts, and Alito — find no conflict between the Constitution and reducing access to weapons that have no purpose other than to injure and kill as many people as possible, but the current GOP stands firmly in the way of new federal legislation.
The two cases the Court turned down — Shew v. Malloy (Connecticut) and Kampfer v. Cuomo (New York) — both involved laws introduced and passed following the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012. Shew was brought by four individuals, a business, and two “advocacy” groups essentially claiming in their petition that the definition of “assault weapon” is too vague to be enforceable. According to the petition: “Connecticut dubs a semiautomatic firearm” with one of several common features “an ‘assault weapon,’ but that is nothing more than an argument advanced by a political slogan in the guise of a definition.” The petitioners seem especially concerned that Shew outlaws “the most popular rifles in the Nation.”
It seems prudent to pause and consider that these actual weapons of mass destruction are our country’s most popular. The targets of our gun violence epidemic and public outcry seem not to matter to our Republican legislators any more than their word. Last week’s 15-hour filibuster by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) ended when Republicans reportedly agreed to let gun measures come to a vote. Yesterday’s refusal to follow through — even on GOP-penned proposals — reflects an indefensible disregard for human life. Whether or not the proposals would curb numbers like 13,286 killed and 26,819 injured by guns in 2015 alone are irrelevant to Republicans. And maybe they wouldn’t. But refusing to so much as discuss options when the flags across our nation are at half-staff is bone-chillingly heartless.
Around the corner from the intransigent GOP, eight justices sat wordlessly on the bench of the highest court of the land as it was announced that they would hear neither Shew nor Kampfer. They haven’t spoken concerning “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” in eight years — since they struck down parts of a strict local law in their 2008 District of Columbia et al. v. Heller decision. They denied a similar appeal in December (Friedman v. City of Highland Park) when the conservatives still had a strong majority (Thomas and Scalia dissented) — also a decision made without public comment.
This unity around limiting the Second Amendment isn’t new. As Dahlia Lithwick wrote at Slate last week, the supposed purpose and effect of the Second Amendment that the NRA-funded GOP and their gun fetishist followers have bought into is a fable at best:
“[T]he current interpretation of the Second Amendment — the one held onto by Carson, and Donald Trump, and practically the entire Republican Party — is a hoax. Outside of the GOP, this is widely understood. But what we fail to comprehend, as we bury more of our dead in the name of freedom, is that it is a triple-decker hoax: A lie wrapped in a fabrication, lacquered over with a falsehood. That we chose to wrap it around our necks as a symbol of our own liberty is our own fault and shame . . .
“So clearly and unequivocally held was this worldview that no less a liberal squish than Richard Nixon Supreme Court appointee Warren Burger said after his retirement in 1991 that the Second Amendment ‘has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud — I repeat the word ‘fraud’ — on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.’”
Seven states and a few cities have laws similar to those denied a hearing yesterday; Maryland’s Firearms Safety Act — proposed and enacted in 2012 on the heels of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre — is currently being challenged in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Assault weapon lovers have responded to the Orlando shooting by boasting about how the 5 million who own these AR-15s definitely do need them.
“This article isn’t my attempt to justify anything to you — it’s not a defense of what’s in my gun safe or of the AR-15 itself,” one gun lover wrote at Vox. “If, for you, my AR-15 ownership is prima facie evidence of my mental instability, sexual inadequacy, lack of a conscience, or what-have-you, then I honestly don’t care what you think about this issue. You can go back to broadcasting your own moral superiority on social media, and I can go back to tuning you out until your rage therapy session is over.”
Someone get Shakespeare on the phone.
Leaving aside his need to defend his character, the writer is particularly aggrieved that some of us seem to be having rage issues. Where was his concern for the Orlando shooter’s rage? As Gabe Ortiz so powerfully wrote at The Washington Post after finding out that 49 people he identified with on almost every level had been murdered, “according to reports, the killer’s father said that his son had become ‘very angry’ after seeing two men kissing in public several months ago.”
And what if tens of millions of us are enraged that we continue to allow mass murder in the name of freedom? How is all-consuming rage not THE CORRECT response to hearing that dozens of our fellow human beings have been massacred because of toxic masculinity again? Probably someone who claims they need their AR-15 for “varmint control” when responsible gun advocates say a standard shotgun or .22 would do the job will never understand that their need for more bullets instead of more time honing their accuracy with a rifle isn’t a coherent constitutional argument.
Perhaps he and his small band of rage-phobic rifle hoarders shouldn’t been the ones deciding laws about our public safety.
Eight cases — including “the big three” on abortion, affirmative action, and immigration remain; the next round of decisions is expected Thursday at 10:00 a.m. EST. Catch up on other decisions from the current Supreme Court session in our first of this series: Welcome To Supreme Court Decision Season.
Lead image: flickr/AK Rockefeller