By LINDSAY WHITEHURST and ALANNA DURKIN RICHER
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court’s decision expanding gun rights threatens to overturn gun restrictions across the country as activists wage legal battles over everything from bans on AR weapons -15 to age limits.
The June ruling has already led a judge to temporarily block a Colorado city from enforcing a ban on the sale and possession of certain semi-automatic weapons.
The first major gun ruling in more than a decade, the decision could radically reshape gun laws in the United States, even if a series of horrific mass shootings push the issue back into the headlines.
“The gun rights movement has been given a weapon of mass destruction, and it will eventually wipe out about 75% of gun laws,” said Evan Nappen, a gun rights attorney from New Jersey. .
The court battles come as the Biden administration and police departments across the United States struggle to tackle a rise in violent crime and mass shootings, including several high-profile killings carried out by suspects who bought their guns legally. .
And given the large number of cases pending before the courts, much more time will be spent in courtrooms, regardless of who wins.
“We will see a lot of taxpayer dollars and government resources that should be used to stop gun crime from being used to advocate for life-saving and hugely popular gun laws,” said Jonathan Lowy, chief attorney and vice president of Brady, the gun control group. .
Congress broke through years of deadlock to pass a modest gun violence prevention package weeks ago, and the House voted to renew a ban on high-powered semi-automatic weapons, though that effort is likely doomed to the Senate as Republicans push back on gun restrictions and say recent spikes in gun violence should be met with a beefed-up police response.
The Supreme Court ruling struck down a New York law requiring people to demonstrate a special need to obtain a license to carry a concealed weapon in public, saying it violates Second Amendment rights. Several other states, including California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island, have similar laws that are expected to be directly affected by the ruling.
In Massachusetts, for example, police chiefs can no longer deny or impose restrictions on permits simply because the applicant has no “good reason” to carry a weapon. New York quickly passed a new concealed weapons law, but Republicans predict that it too will eventually be struck down.
In its New York ruling, the conservative High Court majority also changed a test that lower courts had used to assess challenges to gun laws.
Judges should no longer question whether the law serves public interests like improving public safety, said the opinion written by Judge Clarence Thomas. Instead, they should only weigh whether the law “conforms to the text and historical understanding of the Second Amendment.”
“Basically, the Supreme Court invited the gun lobby to sue virtually every gun law in America,” Lowy said.
The Supreme Court ordered lower courts to reconsider several other cases under the court’s new test. Among them: laws in California and New Jersey that limit the amount of ammunition a gun magazine can hold and a 2013 ban on “assault weapons” in Maryland.
Gun advocacy groups are also challenging similar bans in California, New York, New Jersey and Delaware.
“The guns at issue in this case are the kind of endurable weapons commonly used for lawful purposes that responsible and peaceful people across the United States possess by the millions. And they are, moreover, exactly what they would bring in militia service, if necessary,” says a New Jersey lawsuit filed in June by the Firearms Policy Coalition, referencing Second Amendment language.
The ruling also came up in challenges to gun ownership restrictions for 18- to 20-year-olds in Texas and Pennsylvania. And he was cited in a case challenging a federal gun ownership ban for those convicted of non-violent crimes punishable by more than a year behind bars, as well as a ban on concealed weapons on the subway. in Washington, DC.
Additionally, a gun rights group is suing Colorado over the state’s 2013 ban on magazines with more than 15 rounds, saying the High Court ruling bolsters the group’s argument that it violates Second Amendment rights. And the ruling has public defenders in New York calling on judges to drop gun possession cases.
Not all of these lawsuits will necessarily succeed. The Texas attorney general, for example, argues that the Supreme Court’s decision does not affect the state’s age limit law, and that more state and local governments can certainly defend their age limit laws. guns as consistent with the history of the United States.
Adam Skaggs, chief counsel and policy director at Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, predicted that when the dust settles, only “fringe” laws will ultimately be struck down.
“Most judges are going to see them for what they are, which is overblown and devoid of any merit,” he said.
Proponents of gun restrictions can also turn to a concurring opinion from Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
Joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, Kavanaugh pointed out that the Second Amendment allows for a “variety” of gun regulations. He cited the use of background checks and mental health records as part of a licensing process to carry a firearm and noted that states can prohibit the carrying of firearms in “sensitive places” such as schools and government buildings.
But Colorado’s decision handed down last month, when it was still early in the process, was a rosy sign for gun rights groups.
US District Court Judge Raymond Moore, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, said he favors the city’s goal of preventing mass shootings like the one that killed 10 people in a grocery store near Boulder last year. But Moore said he didn’t know of a “historical precedent” for a law banning “a type of weapon commonly used by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes”, so gun advocacy groups have strong arguments against the order.
Encouraged by the move, Taylor D. Rhodes, the executive director of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, told The Associated Press that his group is considering tackling further gun action in Colorado, where Democrats hold a majority in the state legislature and governor’s office. .
Referring to the Supreme Court ruling, Rhodes said, “The Bruen ruling gave us a 4-ton wrecking ball.”
This story has been corrected to indicate that Brady’s lead attorney is Jonathan Lowy, not Lowry.
Richer reported from Boston.