After Supreme Court ruling, it's open season on US gun laws

FILE - The Supreme Court is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 14, 2022. The Supreme Court ruling expanding gun rights threatens to upend firearms restrictions across the country as activists wage court battles over everything from bans on AR-15-style guns to age limits. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court ruling expanding gun rights threatens to upend firearms restrictions across the country as activists wage court battles over everything from bans on AR-15-style guns to age limits.

The decision handed down in June already has led one judge to temporarily block a Colorado town from enforcing a ban on the sale and possession of certain semi-automatic weapons.

The first major gun decision in more than a decade, the ruling could dramatically reshape gun laws in the U.S. even as a series of horrific mass shootings pushes the issue back into the headlines.

“The gun rights movement has been given a weapon of mass destruction, and it will annihilate approximately 75% of the gun laws eventually," said Evan Nappen, a New Jersey gun rights attorney.

The court battles come as the Biden administration and police departments across the U.S. struggle to combat a surge in violent crime and mass shootings, including several high-profile killings carried out by suspects who purchased their guns legally.

And given the sheer number of cases now working through the courts, a lot more time will be spent in courtrooms no matter who wins.

“We will see a lot of tax dollars and government resources that should be used to stop gun crime being used to defend gun laws that are lifesaving and wildly popular," said Jonathan Lowry, chief counsel and vice president at Brady, the gun control group.

Congress broke through years of deadlock to pass a modest gun violence prevention package weeks ago, and the House voted to renew a ban on high-powered semi-automatic weapons, though that effort is likely doomed in the Senate as Republicans push back on firearms restrictions and say recent spikes in gun violence should be met with a stepped-up police response.

The Supreme Court decision struck down a New York law requiring people to demonstrate a particular need to get a license to carry a concealed gun in public, saying it violates Second Amendment rights. Several other states including California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island have similar laws expected to be directly impacted by the ruling.

In Massachusetts, for example, police chiefs can no longer deny or impose restrictions on licenses just because the applicant doesn’t have a “good reason” to carry a gun. New York quickly passed a new concealed-weapon law, but Republicans there predict it will also end up being overturned.

In its New York ruling, the high court's conservative majority also changed a test lower courts had used for evaluating challenges to gun laws.

Judges should no longer consider whether the law serves public interests like enhancing public safety, the opinion authored by Justice Clarence Thomas said. Instead, they should only weigh whether the law is “consistent with the Second Amendment’s text and historical understanding.”

“Basically, the Supreme Court has given an invitation for the gun lobby to file lawsuits against virtually every gun law in America,” Lowry said.

The Supreme Court has ordered lower courts to take another look at several other cases under the court’s new test. Among them: laws in California and New Jersey that limit the amount of ammunition a gun magazine can hold and a 2013 ban on “assault weapons” in Maryland.

Gun rights groups are also challenging similar bans in California, New York, New Jersey and Delaware.

“The rifles at issue in this case are the sorts of bearable arms in common use for lawful purposes that responsible and peaceable people across the United States possess by the millions. And they are, moreover, exactly what they would bring to service in militia duty, should such be necessary,” a New Jersey lawsuit brought in June by the Firearms Policy Coalition says, referencing the language of the Second Amendment.

The ruling also has come up in challenges to restrictions on gun possession for 18- to 20-year-olds in Texas and Pennsylvania. And it has been cited in a case challenging a federal ban on gun possession for people convicted of nonviolent crimes punishable by more than a year behind bars, as well as a prohibition on concealed guns on the subway in Washington, D.C.

In addition, a gun rights group is suing Colorado over the state’s 2013 ban on magazines that hold more than 15 rounds, saying the high court ruling reinforces the group’s argument that it infringes on Second Amendment rights. And the ruling has public defenders in New York City asking judges to drop gun possession cases.

Not all those lawsuits will necessarily be successful. The Texas attorney general, for example, argues the Supreme Court ruling doesn't affect the state's age limit law, and more state and local governments can certainly defend their gun laws as being in line with U.S. history.

Adam Skaggs, chief counsel and policy director at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, predicted that when the dust settles, only laws “along the margins” will eventually be struck down.

“Most judges are going to see these for what they are, which is overreaching and lacking in any merit,” he said.

Backers of gun restrictions can also look to a concurring opinion from Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, Kavanaugh stressed that the Second Amendment does allow for a “variety” of gun regulations. He cited the use of background checks and mental health records as part of a licensing process to carry a gun and noted that states can forbid the carrying of firearms in “sensitive places” such as schools and government buildings.

But the Colorado decision handed down last month, while still early in the process, was a rosy sign for gun rights groups.

U.S. District Court Judge Raymond Moore, who was nominated by President Barack Obama, said he was sympathetic to the town's goal of preventing mass shootings like the one that killed 10 people at a grocery store in nearby Boulder last year. But Moore said he didn't know of “historical precedent” for a law banning “a type of weapon that is commonly used by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes," so the gun rights groups have a strong case against the ordinance.

Encouraged by that decision, Taylor D. Rhodes, the executive director of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, told The Associated Press that his group was considering going after other gun measures in Colorado, where Democrats hold the majority in the state legislature and the governor's office.

Referring to the Supreme Court’s ruling, Rhodes said: “The Bruen decision gave us a 4-ton wrecking ball."

———

Richer reported from Boston.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

(7) comments

Boomer631B

It is called the Constitution and the rights of us citizens to bear arms... if you want crime to come down in the cities especially gun violence that occurs every weekend say like in Chicago - then prosecute the criminals and send them to prison rather than letting them out and walking the streets... liberals and gun haters always go after the guns but in reality it is the criminals they should be after including DAs that will not prosecute...

LAR1

Recent Supreme Court decisions do not appear to reflect the desires of We the People. Congress does not appear to,be able to resolve issues. Many court cases are just expensive and muddy the waters further. We need a national referendum on issues such as guns and abortion that will never be resolved any other way. After We the People vote, the result is the law of the land.

phydeaux994

I keep on agreeing with you LAR1. They had a Statewide Referendum on abortion in Kansas and the MAJORITY spoke. The people WON! The same thing could be done Nationwide on abortion and GUNS and the result would be the same. The MAJORITY would speak and the people would WIN. As it should be. The Women’s Right to an abortion or anything else that affects her person, just like men have. There are no second class citizens in America. Time to take this Country back from the MAGATS, who clap and cheer and give a standing ovation to a foreign DICTATOR White Christian? Supremacist. I tried to tell jsk and company years ago. It’s all about RACISM. Tearing America Apart.

pdl603

SCOTUS rulings are not supposed to follow the will of the majority, but rather the framework set forth in the constitution. Congress makes laws and it is the same at the state level. Were you absent that day in class?

phydeaux994

There is no doubt, the statistics are irrefutable. Less guns, less gun violence, less deaths, less permanent disability, less grieving families. More guns, more gun violence, more deaths, more permanent disability, more grieving families. Every Free Nation in the World has figured that out……except one. In the midst of an epidemic of gun violence in every major city, in the midst of the slaughter by gun in our Schools, in our Churches and Synagogues, in Walmart and grocery stores, at Concerts, at Parades, many just children in a classroom, people worshipping, people out shopping, people celebrating a Holiday. Shot dead and wounded ten, twenty, thirty at a time, drive by shootings with kids and grandmothers and more Police on duty deaths than anytime in recent history. And our SCOTUS says, it’s our Constitutional Right, it’s the American way, everybody needs one to protect themselves at School, at Church, at the grocery store, at the Movie Theater, when you’re mowing the lawn, and especially at School Board Meetings. Ready…Aim…Fire!!!

gabrielshorn2013

Yes, phy, the statistics are irrefutable, if you only bothered to look them up and read them. Try this one regarding firearm murder rates and firearm suicide rates in the US:

U.S. gun suicide and gun murder rates have increased in recent years, but remain below past highs

https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2022/02/03/what-the-data-says-about-gun-deaths-in-the-u-s/ft_22-01-26_gundeaths_2/

and…

Deaths by firearm-related injuries per 100,000 resident population in the U.S. from 1970 to 2018

https://www.statista.com/statistics/186935/deaths-by-firearm-related-injuries-in-the-us-since-1970/

As you can clearly see, the rate of firearm murders was decreasing until approximately 2016 where there was a bump upwards that leveled off, and then a sharp increase attributable to human behavior during the pandemic.

So, as the number of firearm deaths was decreasing, the number of firearms owned in the US was increasing. Although the following link only goes out to 2017, it overlaps with the charts above:

Number of firearms in the US vs total US population

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2018/06/19/there-are-more-guns-than-people-in-the-united-states-according-to-a-new-study-of-global-firearm-ownership/

How do you explain the statistical discrepancy, and the refuting of your premise, phy? After all, as you said above, “There is no doubt, the statistics are irrefutable”, right?

phydeaux994

You have refuted even one sentence in my comment. All you do is try to justify and excuse the slaughter by guns, Children, Women, Men, Girls, Boys. You condemn the senseless mayhem in the inner cities, but not the gunrunners that keep the supply of guns in their hands. You say an Assault Weapon is really a “Sporting Rifle” that can kill and wound dozens of children and teachers in a classroom and hold off 100 well armed LEO’s for over an hour while the shooter methodically shoots his victims. People dying for no reason from a bullet that rips their arms off are not statistics, they are your children, your family, your neighbors that have no defense against a Weapon of War.

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