The US Supreme Court has yet to issue opinions on a couple of highly consequential legal cases before it and one of those decisions could have a major impact on gun laws in several states. As the tension builds, left-wing news media outlets continue to ratchet up their dramatic warnings of virtual Armageddon, should a majority of the nine justices come down on the side of Second Amendment rights. One such outlet, Washington’s most well-known leftist newspaper, on June 18 managed, as it so often does, to offer up a heavily slanted opinion piece on gun rights disguised as news. The article in question was written around a cobbled-together assortment of unverifiable assertions and, in at least one case, a statement so devoid of legal and historical accuracy as to be laughable.
The authors of the article suggest that if the Court sides with the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association against the city of New York, that decision could “make it easier for people in at least a half-dozen states to legally carry loaded firearms in public.” This much is true. Currently, the residents of several Democrat-controlled states face the burden of proving “proper cause” or a “justifiable need” to obtain a permit that allows them to carry a gun outside the home.
Permission Required to Exercise a Right?
Strip away, for a moment, the trepidation, distrust, and even fear stirred up in many people by the anti-gun lobby – or even the natural unease about guns felt by those who simply have no familiarity with them – and think about what these requirements mean: a law-abiding US citizen or legal resident, in certain states, must prove that he or she has a compelling reason to be allowed to practice a constitutional right. No other such right but the Second Amendment is protected only under strict conditions, in certain places, and then only at the whim of governors and state legislators. No other constitutional right is extended only to those people who apply to their county Sheriff – and pay money – for permission to exercise it.
Those who oppose gun rights would say that this is different because guns are a danger to public safety. Quite apart from the fact that such an assertion is highly questionable, it is immaterial. We are talking, after all, about a right codified within one of the country’s founding documents and ratified by Congress 231 years ago. If the perceived urgency to enhance public safety is all the reason our leaders need to deny a constitutional right, then Americans might as well abandon the Bill of Rights and all the other constitutional amendments tomorrow. Many would suggest this is precisely the plan of the radical left.
Back to the article already mentioned. Eric Tirschwell from the anti-Second Amendment advocacy group, Everytown for Gun Safety, is quoted as saying, “If the court forces New York to allow more people to carry guns in public, the result will be more people shot and more people killed, and that’s what the evidence and social science tells you.” In truth, neither the evidence nor social science tells you any such thing.
The Statistics Minefield
The use of gun violence statistics is a weak spot for people like Tirschwell. It is easy to claim that the rate of shooting fatalities per capita is higher in certain gun-friendly states than it is in some other states with tighter gun laws. It is also just as easy to note that some of America’s largest cities, with some of the strictest firearms regulations, experience higher rates of gun violence. Using such data, then, to make the argument either for or against guns can be a bit of a minefield. However, it is the very inconsistency of these numbers, from city to city and state to state, that proves one point beyond any reasonable objection, and that is that gun violence is driven by many more factors than just how loose or tight the firearm laws are in any one specific location. By extension, this also proves the notion that more restrictions on guns will always lead to less gun violence is deeply flawed. No direct correlation between the two things can be determined.
Case in point: the city of New York itself. The homicide rate has soared since 2019 and yet, in that time, none of the local gun restrictions have been eased or removed. Why the surge in violent crime, then? There are probably half a dozen factors – but a loosening of firearm laws is certainly not one of them.
Another aspect of the debate often buried by those who clamor for a gun-free society is that, in a nation of some 320 million souls who collectively own an even greater number of firearms, the annual rate of homicides in which guns are used is, one can reasonably claim, quite a bit lower than what it would be if America’s gun owners were as unstable and untrustworthy as the anti-gun folks make them out to be. As gun rights advocates often like to quip, millions of gun-owners killed nobody, this week.
Oh, Civics, Where Did You Go?
One particular line from the article stands out among others:
“Ever since the Supreme Court in 2008 declared a right to gun ownership, lower courts have generally sided with states that restrict the right when determining how the Second Amendment applies beyond people’s homes.”
No, the article has not been misquoted. What is widely considered one of the country’s most well-established and authoritative traditional sources of news put this statement in print. How one or more highly paid and, one would think, highly experienced editors allowed such a frightfully inaccurate sentence to slip by is perhaps a story for another day, assuming one is willing to accept that the glaring error is not a deliberate attempt to rewrite the history of America’s gun laws.
The 2008 case referred to, here, is District of Columbia v. Heller. Without going into all the details and, instead, providing the most rudimentary summary, the Supreme Court in that case affirmed the ruling of the DC circuit court that a district statute forbidding the possession of guns in the home without a license violates an individual’s right to bear arms. The right to gun ownership, as previously noted, has been recognized since 1791 and, even back then, it was not declared but simply recognized – because it was a right that already existed – by law.
To those who fight to preserve the Second Amendment, it is a source of constant frustration that their critics, through either ignorance or willful dishonesty, or a combination of both, distort the facts, the statistics, and the history of America’s pro-gun rights tradition and the status of gun ownership today in relation to rates of violent crime. The outlet referred to here, along with its ideological allies, cannot be regarded as a good-faith participant in the gun debate for precisely this reason. The only part of the story it got right is this; that if a majority opinion from the Supreme Court – which will be written, well, when it is written – goes against the city of New York, then lower courts across the country will be dealing with challenges to many more regulations that prevent so many people from exercising their natural and fundamental rights.