In recent weeks, a series of devastating shootings — at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, a church in Laguna Woods and now an elementary school in Little Uvalde, Texas — have prompted renewed calls for tighter gun restrictions.
Just hours after an 18-year-old gunman killed at least 19 children and two teachers at a Texas elementary school on Tuesday, an emotional President Biden demanded, “When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?” When in God’s name are we going to do what we all know needs to be done?”
Gov. Gavin Newsom asked in a series of angry tweets on Tuesday: “Who the hell are we if we can’t protect our children? This is avoidable. Our inaction is a choice. We now need nationwide, comprehensive and sensible gun protection.”
However, experts say the opposite – relaxation of gun laws – is almost certain to come.
This is despite the shooting of 10 shoppers and food workers in a mostly black neighborhood on May 14. The elderly Taiwanese churchgoers were terrorized a day later. The elementary school students were shot dead on Tuesday.
“When you respond to this type of atrocity, ‘Well, where’s the political will to move the regulatory needle?’ The truth is that the space for these types of regulatory moves is narrowing, both from a constitutional and state law perspective,” said Darrell AH Miller, Duke University law professor and an expert on the 2 Amendment and other gun laws.
By the summer of this year, the US Supreme Court is expected to make a decision overturning a longstanding New York law that bans individuals from carrying guns in public without first establishing a “special need” for self-defense.
Depending on how narrow the court’s ruling is, the ruling could have far-reaching implications for similar restrictions on concealed carry across the country, and particularly in liberal states like California, Miller and other Second Amendment scholars said.
If the court issues a broad decision — such as one that implies that gun regulations that are not historically based are unconstitutional — more gun control laws could become vulnerable to challenge, the scholars said.
“Any day the Supreme Court could announce its decision in the concealed carry case in New York, making it much harder for states like California to regulate guns in the name of public safety,” said Adam Winkler, UCLA law professor.
Miller said that the “trend line is definite [toward] “increasing gun rights,” not gun restrictions, and that there will almost certainly be “a spate of litigation” by gun rights advocates seeking additional state gun control measures once the Supreme Court issues its decision in the New York case.
Gun rights groups have been slowly working towards such an outcome for years, scientists said, believing the conservative majority on the Supreme Court — aided by former President Trump’s three appointments — shares their interests in rolling back gun restrictions nationwide.
At the same time, Miller said, many lawmakers in the red states feel encouraged to strengthen gun rights now – even in the face of tragedies like what happened in Uvalde, where two teachers and 19 elementary school children were killed by a gun-wielding 18 – year-old who was later shot dead by a police officer.
Before the school massacre, the black-clad gunman is said to have shot and injured his grandmother.
“Even though the US Supreme Court has taken no action, the demonstrated response of the Red States, particularly to atrocities like what just happened in Texas and Buffalo – what was that last week? — isn’t about rethinking or even considering any gun regulations, it’s about ever-expanding gun rights,” Miller said.
Miller was one of several law professors who filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in the New York case, the New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn. vs. Bruen, in which they argued against a sweeping decision that any gun regulation not based on early US history was unconstitutional.
The case began when two men living near Albany, NY, applied for a concealed weapons permit but were denied by a district judge, who ruled they faced “no special or unique danger.” They sued along with the Rifle and Pistol Association, arguing that the ruling violated their 2nd Amendment right to carry guns in self-defense.
Miller said a sweeping ruling in favor of the plaintiffs would challenge a number of restrictions that the vast majority of Americans support, such as restrictions on carrying guns on planes or subway cars or restrictions on domestic abusers carrying firearms wear.
Miller said the Supreme Court’s “advocacy of this textual, historical and traditional approach,” which has already been picked up by some justices in the lower courts and “most vocally by Trump-appointed judges,” would set a dangerous precedent.
“Then it’s all at stake,” Miller said. “If the court applies this, you can bet that at least someone will try to challenge the full range of regulatory rules we have based on the argument that they have no basis in text, history or tradition. “
Joseph Blocher, another 2nd Amendment fellow at Duke’s School of Law who also signed the amicus brief, said the main obstacles to gun regulation in the US so far have been political, not judicial.
Frankly, he said, the 2nd Amendment, as it has always existed and been construed by the nation’s courts, is not “the invincible champion” as many on the right claim, but a law that judges have always used understand that there are limits.
The right to bear arms, the courts have clearly said, “does not extend to all people or all activities or all places,” Blocher said.
Instead, it’s been conservative state lawmakers who have refused to pass gun restrictions, or even passed so-called pre-emption laws preventing blue cities within their borders from restricting firearms, which has hampered regulation in much of the country. “So far, what’s keeping gun laws off the books aren’t court cases, but a lack of political will,” Blocher said.
However, “everything could change” if the Supreme Court largely overturns New York’s concealed carry law, Blocher said.
When that happens, he said, “it throws off the table the kind of mainstream gun regulations that the majority of Americans prefer.”
It is unclear how far the court’s verdict will go. During hearings, some judges were clearly struggling with the potential ramifications of a broad decision, considering what carrying guns in places like Times Square, a football stadium or a college campus might mean, Blocher said.
But all signs point to the court expanding the Second Amendment — and gun rights for people across the country, scientists said.
Some federal laws, such as restricting young adults from purchasing handguns from licensed federal dealers, may be subject to re-examination. State restrictions in more liberal countries like California — for example, against high-capacity magazines or against certain types of weapons like assault rifles — would certainly be affected, UCLA’s Winkler said.
A number of California gun measures have come under scrutiny by lower federal courts in recent years, including the state’s ban on assault rifles and the ban on large-capacity ammunition magazines.
While lower courts ruled both unconstitutional, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the magazine ban was a limited restriction on people’s rights and therefore constitutional. The decision indicated that the Court of Appeals is likely to come to a similar conclusion regarding the assault weapons ban.
Gun rights advocates have already said they want these issues to be heard by the Supreme Court, and that the Supreme Court’s ruling in the New York Concealed Carry case may be relevant in determining the legitimacy of these laws.
Earlier this month, a three-judge panel of the 9th federal court ruled that another California law banning adults under the age of 21 from purchasing semi-automatic rifles was unconstitutional. The state is expected to request a larger panel of judges at the court to review that decision, and it too could face additional scrutiny later, the experts said.
“The kind of laws that are most likely to occupy the court in the coming years are the laws in places like California and New York and other liberal states that have gone beyond federal laws to restrict guns,” Winkler said.
“The Supreme Court is putting up barriers to doing anything” to regulate guns, he said, “and the court may leave us with few options other than, well, I think we will.” do I have to start arming the teachers now.”
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-05-25/mass-shootings-renew-calls-for-stricter-gun-laws-experts-say-the-opposite-is-coming Texas mass shooting: U.S. gun laws getting looser despite more carnage