You hear a lot about state's rights, but what do states really have the right to do? It would appear that all depends on the U.S. Supreme Court in charge of our country at the time.
In the Times of San Diego, dated 18 minutes ago when I started pulling this together (7/1/22), this SCOTUS felt it had the right to throw out a lower court ruling in California where they were attempting to BAN the use of large capacity ammunition magazines. Here's why that's scary:
The justices' actions mean that lower courts that allowed gun restrictions will have to reconsider many decisions, including Maryland's ban on "highly dangerous, military-style assault rifles," bans by both California and New Jersey on magazines with more than 10 rounds of ammunition, and Hawaii's ban on openly carrying firearms in public.
Now it was always my understanding that the SCOTUS could only act when an issue involving two or more states was brought to them. What's with the interference here? Apparently the Firearms Policy Coalition challenged this ban on assault rifles and expects us to rely on people's good moral character. "We are eager to see this stay lifted and one more nugget of freedom restored in the Golden State." This is probably also in relation to the moderately tougher gun laws passed by Congress recently.
What are those new gun laws? Here's from CNBC:
The measure aims to strengthen background checks for the youngest buyers, close the so-called boyfriend loophole and incentivize states to pass red-flag laws. While Democrats wanted to go further to rein in gun violence following the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings, they could get Republicans to agree to only more modest measures.
Do those new laws help us get guns only into the hands of people with good moral character? While this one appears to make that effort, I'm not sure any law can do that, such kids get get hold of their parents' weapons so easily. Prosecuting more parents when their kids kill helps, and may prevent more in the future if they learn to keep these weapons locked up. But most of those owners would say that would prevent them from protecting their homes. Honestly, though, we don't need guns in the streets to protect our homes.
New York, of course, is having the same problem with this uber-conservative SCOTUS. Also on July 1st, those legislatures are meeting in a special session to rewrite their gun laws after SCOTUS struck down one law that required people to prove they had good reason to carry a concealed weapon. Their session began the previous Thursday following a ruling by SCOTUS that said people have the right to carry guns in public. Governor Kathy Hochul called their decision reckless and reprehensible.
"Our nation has been brought to a moment of reckoning due to weapons of war that have been too easily accessed by those seeking to kill," New York Senate majority leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said in a statement. "In these devastating times in New York and across the nation, we have worked ... to step up and send a message that this path of gun violence is unacceptable and we need real change."
So what's behind the SCOTUS decision to protect the free carry of guns? Is it because they believe a good guy can stop a bad guy, though we have little proof of that? Is it because they buy in the NRA notion that if you keep good guys from getting guns only bad guys will have them? Do they watch too many old westerns? What about people who become bad guys when they have guns? How many hardened criminals commit these mass shootings? Maybe 1%? I don't know. I don't think anyone cares.
The Supreme Court said that Americans have a right to carry firearms in public for self-defense. That's important because about half a dozen states have conditioned getting a license to carry a gun in public on the person demonstrating an actual need — sometimes called "good cause" or "proper cause" — to carry the weapon. That limits who can carry a weapon in those states. In its decision, the Supreme Court struck down New York's "proper cause" requirement, but other states' laws are expected to face quick challenges. About one-quarter of the U.S. population lives in states expected to be affected by the ruling.
I think in view of all this, we should just throw the 2nd amendment away. We don't need it anymore. We don't need another Civil War, either, but that could happen.
One view on the 2nd Amendment laid out its most obvious meaning, when written. George Will of the Washington Post wrote on this ruling, that the six justices (yes, even Roberts), in striking down New York's ban, were acting on a 2nd rights amendment theory that had also been affirmed in 2017 and even back to 2008, when it's not clear that the right to protect your home meant outside of it, too.
Will wrote that the Second Amendment is the only one in the Bill of Rights with a preamble: "A well regulated Militia …" is that preamble. That's what this amendment is for. Nothing else. Not a well-armed public, not a punch of KKK looking to reinstate slavery. A well regulated militia. This means only that the federal government could not take away any state's right to defend itself with its own armed troops should the federal government want to restrict their freedom.
Well, guess what? The Federal government is now restricting their freedoms. And it doesn't seem like there's a thing they can do about it. Because the state militia now also belongs to the federal government. Our Constitution no longer works. It needs find-tuning.
Oh, but Justice Thomas, who's been a real bully boy since we've learned his wife is a White Supremacist (go figure), even calls on "American tradition" as the reason we have to allow free gun use in this country. Well, we can't argue that, can we? Even though strict gun laws are also a part of American tradition. Need proof? I'll work on that next time. No, here is a restricting of state's rights and nothing more; every state has the right to set its rules and laws.
Even Justice Kagan was conflicted: "It was completely intuitive that there should be different gun regimes in New York and Wyoming, but it is difficult to match this with our notion of Constitutional rights."
No, it isn't. Read the 2nd Amendment again. Understand state's rights again. If people in Wyoming want to shoot each other up, that shouldn't mean that people in New York must be forced to do the same. States rights.
Of course our Civil War was fought to remove states rights in reference to slavery. I can see this conservative court using the same mentality in regards to gun laws, abortion, gay rights … you name it.
They are only getting started.
George Will, a Washington Post Opinion, appeared in Beloit Daily News, June 29, 2022.