In the aftermath of whatever mass shooting has happened before you finish reading this, attention and outrage will turn to politicians, mainly Republicans, who refuse to do anything to stop the violence. That’s because the political solution to America’s problem has already been figured out by the rest of the world. To stanch gun violence, you must restrict gun access. It really is that simple: Making guns rare and hard to come by leads to fewer gun homicides, fewer gun suicides, and fewer mass shootings.
But there is one thing that stands in the way of America following in the footsteps of its rational and humane peers: the Republican interpretation of the Second Amendment. Other countries have disaffected male youths; other countries have weak politicians and powerful interest groups; other countries have scared little men who seek to overcompensate with phallic symbols of power and aggression. But other countries do not have a fringe cult who think that dead children are an acceptable price for hunting rights. Nor do other countries have a high council of judges, mainly drawn from that cult, who are able to invalidate laws passed by elected officials to keep their constituents safe.
Gun control measures are popular in this country, but our Supreme Court is protected from popular will or accountability. The conservative justices on the court have damned this country to a violent present and condemned our children to a blood-soaked future, even as they squeal for “protection” when their own neighbors gather in protest outside of their houses.
Yes, Republicans and conservative Democrats in Congress are unwilling to pass new gun safety legislation, but that inaction is happening against the backdrop of a Supreme Court that has already weakened gun regulations and appears poised to gut them further. In 2008, in a case called D.C. v. Heller, the Supreme Court created a “right” to own guns for self-defense out of thin air. In a few weeks, the court will rule on New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, a case about gun-permit requirements. In that case, the conservatives are expected either to greatly limit the ability of states like New York to require permits before purchasing weapons or to eliminate permit requirements altogether. The near-immediate response of the Supreme Court to yet another mass shooting of little children will be to allow even easier access to guns.
Conservative justices think they are justified in suborning violence in this nation because of an interpretation of the Second Amendment the NRA invented in the 1970s. For most of American history, gun regulation and the Second Amendment were not in conflict. As many people know, “well regulated militia” is right in the text of the amendment, suggesting that regulation is a key concept in the right to bear arms. But the NRA invented a reading of the amendment that called for nearly unfettered access to weapons for dudebros who only feel manly when shooting at black people or Bambi’s mom, and the Republicans and their judges ran with it.
Now, it’s hard to imagine any kind of gun regulation that could withstand the conservatives on the Supreme Court. The state of California has had an assault weapons ban for over 30 years, but last June a conservative judge struck it down. The Ninth Circuit reinstated the prohibition, but if that case ever gets to the Supreme Court, conservatives will likely prevail.
Meanwhile, after the Uvalde school shooting, the California Senate passed a bill that allows private citizens to sue untraceable “ghost gun” manufacturers, or people who sell assault weapons banned by California, in private litigation for up to $10,000. This suit is modeled on the Texas law that allows private bounty hunters to sue abortion providers. The Supreme Court has, so far, allowed the Texas law to proceed. Who really thinks the court will apply the same standard to California’s new rule?
The court’s reaction to the Texas bounty-hunting bill is instructive, because it shows the rank and violent hypocrisy of the conservatives on the Supreme Court. The justices are willing to force people to give birth against their will but won’t protect living children from violence in their own schools. The astute reader will also note that the justices haven’t said boo about the First Amendment, even as Republicans try to ban the teaching of American history or the simple utterance of the word “gay” in classrooms. But they will scream about the Second Amendment should elected officials try to make it more difficult to shoot the children who aren’t allowed to learn while in school.
There is no intellectual or doctrinal consistency to these rulings. Conservative justices are choosing to allow violence, then backfilling their preferred outcomes with legal jargon after the fact, even when their pro-gun legal theories directly conflict with their forced-birth legal theories. Conservatives claim to care about federalism and “states’ rights” when it comes to a woman’s right to choose, but they will gladly violate that principle and take away the gun regulations passed by the individual states. Conservatives claim to favor strict adherence to constitutional text, but then ignore the entire opening clause of the Second Amendment. Conservatives claim that the unborn have a right to live based on a religious interpretation of when “life” begins, but will not lift a finger to protect the safety of children whose lives are taken by gunmen.
And remember, when conservatives on the Supreme Court knock down gun laws, as they almost certainly will within a month, they are doing it contrary to the will of the people. Nobody is asking the Supreme Court to go in and impose gun regulations on people who do not want them. The court merely needs to stay out of the way and allow for gun safety as determined by the people and their elected representatives. But it won’t; the conservatives won’t—they literally will not let us vote our way toward a better, safer future.
The upshot of the court’s rulings and hypocrisy is clear: Innocent people and children will continue to die from preventable gun violence, so long as conservatives are allowed to continue controlling the Supreme Court. Wresting the court from Republican hands is not sufficient to end the scourge of gun violence in this country, but it is a necessary condition.
The way to stop gun violence is to restrict gun access. The Constitution allows us to restrict gun access to only those authorized by the state to carry deadly weapons. That’s the way the Constitution was interpreted for 200 years. As long as conservative justices are empowered to misinterpret the Constitution, we will have more mass shootings, we will have more street shootings, and we will have more school shootings.
And we all know it.