Gun control’s racist past and present effects may accelerate its demise. As Liberty Nation reported in April, the Supreme Court will soon hear a case on whether the Constitution protects the right to carry a firearm outside the home. A number of public defenders from New York are working with a group called The Black Attorneys of Legal Aid to support the public’s right to carry a gun. Their arguments were presented to the Supreme Court this week. It’s a case of strange bedfellows that will help gun rights proponents.
An amicus brief is a formal argument presented to the Supreme Court by an individual or group that is not a party to the litigation. Here, amici are The Black Attorneys of Legal Aid caucus (“BALA”), founded in 2017 and described as “an amalgamation of over 100 Black Legal Aid lawyers.” They joined public defenders from seven New York counties, plus Brooklyn and the Bronx, on the brief. While BALA doesn’t have much history to draw on, the public defenders do, and it’s quite hostile to gun rights across the board. So why are they now supporting carry rights? Racism, that’s why.
New York Rifle & Pistol Association v. Corlett asks the Supreme Court to declare New York state’s gun carry licensing scheme unconstitutional. The state may issue permits to qualified people, but it doesn’t have to. The final call on whether Empire State applicants are issued a license or permit depends on whether a state or county employee thinks it’s a good idea. The brief states:
“For our clients, New York’s licensing regime renders the Second Amendment a legal fiction. Worse, virtually all our clients whom New York prosecutes for exercising their Second Amendment right are Black or Hispanic.”
New York enacted its firearm licensing requirements to criminalize gun ownership by racial and ethnic minorities. That remains the effect of its enforcement by police and prosecutors today.”
The brief describes a parade of horribles by police visited upon black and brown people of New York who wish to exercise their right to keep and bear arms. These include a mother separated from her children for a year for simply possessing a gun. Amici adds an argument not advanced by the N.Y. State Rifle & Pistol Association; the excessive fees charged by New York for a carry license amounts to illegal racial discrimination. Such fees may place a more significant burden on black and brown people, who statistically make less than whites. Still, the real victims are everyone who can’t brush off a $500 price-tag for exercising a fundamental right – never mind their skin color.
The Long-Neglected Right
The Supreme Court has treated the Second Amendment like a red-headed stepchild compared to other fundamental rights. For example, in 2020, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a strident dissent when the Court declined a series of gun cases, “This Court would almost certainly review the constitutionality of a law requiring citizens to establish a justifiable need before exercising their free speech rights.” He went on to say:
“It seems highly unlikely that the Court would allow a State to enforce a law requiring a woman to provide a justifiable need before seeking an abortion. But today, faced with a petition challenging just such a restriction on citizens’ Second Amendment rights, the Court simply looks the other way.”
Four Justices must agree to take any case before it gets a hearing at the High Court. Perhaps Justice Thomas’ shaming of his colleagues brought about their grant in this case. Nevertheless, this amicus brief filed by public defenders and lefty black lawyers gives more reasons and political cover for any Justice to require New York and other states to obey the Constitution.
Read more from Scott D. Cosenza.