The Killer Court: How the Supreme Court Favors Guns Over People

Gun Rights

When a headline starts with “The Supreme Court …”, it now feels like a prelude to another attack on our freedoms. So, when I read the Supreme Court’s decision in Rahimi v. United States, a strange mix of surprise and excitement overcame me in a seemingly rare Supreme Court “win.” In reflection, my excitement at the Supreme Court merely deciding that the government can still disarm domestic abusers shows how extreme the Court has become. 

How could we possibly have gotten to a point where any court is contemplating whether or not domestic abusers should have guns? The answer is simple: The Rahimi case existed at all because of the chaos the Supreme Court created with its 2022 decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, which decreed that gun laws must have precedents from early American history to be constitutional. This “history and tradition” approach is not only dangerous but utterly illogical. It directly led to the lower courts’ decisions in the Rahimi case, which legalized the arming of some domestic abusers. 

Requiring historical precedence to make gun laws constitutional forces lawmakers to solve today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions. This approach ignores centuries of social and technological progress, as well as the context needed to legislate effectively. Domestic violence laws, assault rifles and 3D-printed guns did not exist during America’s founding, and our collective safety hinges on laws based on today’s reality. 

Ignoring Reality

Yet, ignoring today’s reality is exactly what the Supreme Court did in another case handed down in June. In 2017, a gunman in Las Vegas used a bump stock to shoot over 1,000 rounds in 11 minutes, leading to the deadliest mass shooting in US history. Soon after, the ATF rightfully used its regulatory authority to ban bump stocks, keeping functionally automatic weapons out of the hands of mass shooters. This sensible regulation saved lives, only to be overturned by the Supreme Court in Garland v. Cargill

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Nowhere to be found in the Cargill decision were the names of the 60 people murdered in Las Vegas. The Rahimi decision failed to mention the 70 women who are killed every month in the United States by intimate partners with a gun. The innocent lives taken every day by gun violence must be more important in informing how we regulate guns than the way the government treated muskets in 1776. Commonsense gun safety legislation saves lives, and the Supreme Court must protect our right to live free from gun violence. 

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Americans are rightfully horrified by the ongoing broader gun violence epidemic. We refuse to accept bloodshed on the news every night and shootings in schools as the status quo. Yet, just six Americans, protected by lifetime appointments, have time and time again overruled the will of the American people in the name of protecting the right to bear arms. The Supreme Court has prioritized the NRA’s twisted Second Amendment position over our children, schools and families. 

Regulating guns is supported by the vast majority of Americans and leading public health institutions have shown that these regulations save lives. The unelected Supreme Court justices, blocking lifesaving strategies, is anti-democratic and deviates from decades of precedent. The 2008 DC v. Heller decision said, “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. [It is] not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” The Supreme Court’s attack on commonsense policy is deadly. 

In her dissent in Garland v. Cargill, Justice Sotomayor noted that a bump stock makes a semi-automatic weapon virtually indistinguishable from a fully automatic weapon. She said, “When I see a bird that walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck.” We can apply her analogy to the NRA-aligned justices: They walk dangerously, swim dangerously, quack dangerously, and should be called dangerous to the safety of the American people. 

We deserve better! As a member of “generation lockdown,” I urge you to join me in demanding more from the highest court in the land. 

Tyler Kelly is Policy and Communications Fellow at WAVE Educational Fund.

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