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The Supreme Court Case That Lives Depend On

By Abigail Simard


On December 2nd, the Supreme Court is reviewing a case that our lives depend on.


While activists have been working tirelessly for years to pressure lawmakers to focus on the epidemic of gun violence in America, only recently has this work seen small victories. Yet while the Bipartisan Background Checks bill─passed by the Democratic majority in the house 9 months ago─sits on Mitch McConnel’s desk, the gun debate is moving across the street to the Supreme Court.


On Monday, the court is set to review a New York City law that prohibits some licensed gun owners from transporting their guns to shooting ranges outside of the city. This is the first time the Supreme Court has heard a case about the Second Amendment in almost a decade: in 2008, the court ruled in District of Columbia v. Heller that citizens have a constitutional right to own handguns “in the home.” This means that the Second Amendment defends one’s right to bear arms for the purpose of self defense on their own property. Two years later, in McDonald v. Chicago, the court held that the Second Amendment right to bear arms “for the purpose of self defense” is applicable to the states.


Since these cases, states have generally adhered to the precedent that the Second Amendment applies “in the home,” but the court’s new conservative majority could change this. If Monday’s case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. City of New York, extends the Second Amendment, the consequences for gun control efforts could be disastrous. 


Over the course of the past decade, gun-rights groups such as the NRA have been trying to push for the courts to legalize the public carry of firearms. This case is their opportunity, and if the conservative majority of the court shares the pro-gun sentiment of congressional Republicans, right-to-carry laws would no longer be restricted. 


Activists fear that this would increase the rate of gun-related violent crime, pointing to states that already have these laws as evidence that right-to-carry laws do not reduce homicide rates. According to a recent study, “violent crime rates increased with each additional year a RTC law was in place.” This presents concerns about the impact of a constitutional right to carry on a country already plagued with gun violence.


This case comes just over two weeks after a shooting in a California high school left two dead, adding to the long list of mass shootings this year. As of November 17th, the shooting in Santa Clarita was one of 369 mass shootings in the US in 2019, with the amount of gun deaths totaling 34,365.


Yet despite the number of mass shootings exceeding the number of days in a year, the number of laws passed to fight this epidemic remains zero. That is why Monday’s case is so important: for the first time in a decade, the Second Amendment is being interpreted on a national level. If the Supreme Court does find a constitutional right to carry, the progress of gun control advocates will take a few steps back. 


There have already been more shootings in the past 11 months than there are days in a year. Just last week, police confirmed that the gun used in the Santa Clarita high school shooting was a ghost gun, proving how deadly unregistered and unregulated weapons can be. In the meantime, Mitch McConnel refuses to bring the Bipartisan Background Checks bill to the Senate floor.


We cannot afford to take a step back. Americans are dying every day, and allowing people to carry guns in public won’t save lives. It will only move us away from the common sense gun laws that activists have been fighting for.


Monday will decide the next phase of the movement to end gun violence. It will decide whether our lives are valued over someone’s ability to own a gun. It will either be a victory for the NRA, or a victory for the American people.


We have made so much progress, but we cannot afford to lose momentum─especially in the form of a broad interpretation of the Second Amendment by the Supreme Court.