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Genuine Quackery, Frightful In Its Scope

SAY WHAT?- Note: We were writing this when the news of Roe broke; it's hard to keep up with the deluge of atrocities by the cabal of extremists formerly known as SCOTUS. We hope to get to the abysmal criminalizing and corralling of women and their bodies soon, but we may need to take a break from the awful before we do.

In a ruling most sentient beings deemed a lethal "revolution in Second Amendment law," the right-wing "court that dark money built" cited dubious 300-year "history" to strike down New York's rigorous limits on concealed carry - and by extension gun restrictions now protecting 83 million people - dismissing the notion of "proper cause" to be packing in public or the bloody real-world implications of that dismissal and likely unleashing a flood of challenges to any and all gun-control measures. The "maximalist opinion" by Justice (sic) Clarence Thomas, a self-righteous standard-bearer for a party that inexplicably claims the right to regulate a uterus but not an AR-15, renders most of the nation's gun-control laws "presumptively unconstitutional." For advocates of common-sense gun laws, it is "the worst-case scenario," brought to us by the party that used to rail against legislating from the bench before they began a decades-long crusade to strip us of any rights except that of bearing arms, also babies. We're all the Wild West now - or maybe just Texas - and, as of Friday, Gilead.

Particularly cruelly, Thomas' ruling in the 6-3 decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen came days after Sen. Chris Murphy celebrated the "paradigm-shifting moment" that was the Senate's long-delayed approval of a "weak-as-water" but actual bi-partisan gun-reform bill. So much for celebrating. The new decision nullified an 108-year-old provision that anyone in New York who seeks a license to carry a concealed weapon outside the house show "proper cause" - as in, reasonable justification for carrying weapons of war to, say, the grocery store - before getting a permit. The Court in all its rabid glory ruled that requirement violates the 2nd Amendment, thus throwing out restrictions it previously upheld in 2008's District of Columbia v. Heller, and adding another reason to the 45,222 earlier ones - the number of Americans killed by guns in 2020 -  to abolish the 2nd Amendment. "The exercise of other constitutional rights does not require individuals to demonstrate to government officers some special need,“ Thomas noted. "The Second Amendment right to carry arms in public for self-defense is no different.” Somehow, he elided the fact that other such rights don't kill people.

Most alarmingly, as with abortion, Thomas and his carefully assembled right-wing accomplices flagrantly re-write history - aka lie - to achieve their dystopian vision. In their egregious "historical cherry-picking," says law professor Adam Winkler, the Court repeatedly insists gun regulation "is part of the historical tradition" even as it "conveniently ignores any history it doesn't like." "The Court says it is going to look to history and tradition, but then ignores history and tradition," says Winkler, noting a Court that argues its decisions are based on history then dismisses early English common law as too old, dismisses post-mid-1800s laws as too young, declares constitutional a 20th-century permit system, and per New York's 100-plus-year-old law, voids it as not "historic" enough. All this, critics note, while ignoring that so-called historical record is wildly open to interpretation, judges are not (even amateur-hour) historians, and determining, say, whether or not to regulate today's killer AR-15's shouldn't rely on the scouring of obscure history tomes to bolster a given argument. Thus does one Twitter sage argue that striking down the ability of states to restrict deadly weapons "on the basis of how a hypothetical Englishman may have felt during a 20-year period 300 years ago (is) genuine quackery."

Alas, the quackery will likely have "monumental ramifications" beyond issues of conceal carry, critics say, "on everything from age restrictions to assault weapons bans to limits on high-capacity magazines.” It could also turn New York City into "a free-fire zone," with up to 20,000 more guns on city streets. In his dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer got real about America's gun carnage, citing this year's 277 reported mass shootings, or over one a day, and the Court's ludicrous rejection of New York's need for "sensitive-place" protection because "there is no historical basis (to) effectively declare the island of Manhattan a 'sensitive place' simply because it is crowded." So where does that leave parts of every modern city with no 18th-century analogue, he asks. "What about subways, nightclubs, movie theaters, sports stadiums?" he writes, adding, “I fear that it will often prove difficult to identify analogous technological and social problems from Medieval England." Facing the same potentially deadly quandary will be the roughly quarter of the populace in 8 states with laws similar to New York's. They include California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey; oddly, though they encompass some of the country's most densely populated cities, they boast its lowest death rates. Weird.

In New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul ripped a "reprehensible" ruling "frightful in scope." "I'm sorry this dark day has come," she said. "It's not what New Yorkers want," especially in the wake of the mass shooting in Buffalo, followed by Uvalde. Hochul vowed to call the state's Democrat-led legislature back for a special session to find ways to maintain gun restrictions, perhaps by declaring as "sensitive places" areas with more than 10,000 people per square mile or any area near schools, parks, banks, bars, theaters, subways, hospitals, cemeteries, courts - effectively, the whole city. Or they might add new conditions to get a permit, like mandating weapons training, to discourage more people from carrying. Of particular concern are buses andsubways, which have already seen several shootings; says one city official, "It's gonna be a complete disaster." The bottom line: Social science and empirical evidence are clear that the more people carry guns in public, the more people will be shot and killed. The Court's horrifying take on that bottom line: Judges may not consider such evidence. No matter how many people die, guns for everybody!

SCOTUS' ruling was at least likely welcomed by scary-looking dude Zachary Morrissey, who recently took to the streets of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma in shorts, goggles and tactical vest while toting a loaded AR-15 and a holstered revolver. Morrissey's appearance came shortly after a Tulsa mass shooting that saw a disgruntled patient gun down his back doctor and several others, sparking debate about the "muddy waters" of gun control in a "constitutional carry" state where no license or permit is needed for  open or concealed carry. Still, terrified residents called 911 again and again as Morrissey with his wee arsenal walked around town - to the courthouse, where panicked workers locked the doors and called 911, to an AT&T store at a strip mall, where panicked workers ran out the back door and called 911, and to a Target, where panicked etc etc. But after all the 911 calls, police determined none of the incidents were crimes under Oklahoma's law. Morrissey didn't carry his weapons into the courthouse, where he was "trying to recover property he'd left behind" after just getting out of jail; the AT&T store had no sign declaring weapons weren't allowed; and he didn't actually enter Target, with or without his loaded AR-15. “While this might be unusual to witness," said police, "Morrissey was not breaking any law.” That changed after they discovered he had a newly entered misdemeanor warrant. When they arrested Morrissey, police found he had another gun, a .50 caliber semiautomatic, in a pouch; the state only allows up to .45 caliber handguns, and they have to be in a holster. They also found a set of brass knuckles, which are illegal in Oklahoma. In the United States of Guns, AR-15: aye, brass knuckles: nay. Dark days. 

(Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email: [email protected])