The American gun craze is a threat. The Supreme Court could make matters worse.


America’s gun craze is a threat to national security. And it looks like it’s about to get worse.

The United States Supreme Court heard argument on Wednesday in a case challenging a New York state law that requires a license to carry a concealed weapon. In New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, the plaintiffs argued that the law violates the Second Amendment right to bear arms by allowing the state to issue licenses only to those who can demonstrate a particular need.

A majority of the judges appeared to support the association’s argument, and we are now awaiting their decision on whether or not to strike down New York law. The court could go even further and consider the Second Amendment to protect the right to bear arms without restriction.

America’s gun craze is a threat to national security. And it looks like it’s about to get worse.

Such a decision would be a serious mistake from a national security point of view. I was one of 30 former national security officials to sign an amicus brief claiming that unrestricted access to concealable firearms poses a great threat to public safety. If states like New York are unable to restrict the carrying of a concealed weapon, we are at greater risk of gun violence, threats of foreign and domestic terrorism, and political extremism.

First, states have a vested interest in imposing reasonable restrictions on who may carry a concealed weapon and under what circumstances, given the “ease with which concealable firearms can be concealed and the firepower they can carry. contain “. Carrying concealed firearms allows for coordinated and deadly attack planning, as they allow for the element of surprise. For this reason, handguns are the weapon of choice in most mass shootings. In 81% of mass shootings in the United States over the past 12 years, at least one handgun has been used, according to an analysis by the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. In 60% of mass shootings, only a handgun was used.

In 2011, for example, then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, was one of 18 people shot in the parking lot of a shopping mall in Tucson, Ariz., By a gunman who pulled out a Glock semi-automatic handgun. Six people, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl, were killed in the attack. The shooter was able to approach Giffords while hiding his weapon. It was able to deal such massive damage due to the weapon’s firepower and its custom large-capacity magazine, which could fire 30 rounds in 10 seconds without reloading.

In Wednesday’s oral argument, Chief Justice John Roberts raised concerns about concealed weapons at universities, places that serve alcohol and football stadiums. Personally, I’m not sure I’ve been to a college football game before when security hasn’t been called at some point to remove an unruly fan. Now imagine a future in which the Supreme Court allowed this fan to pull out his assault pistol in a stadium filled with thousands of fans. The old trope that “guns don’t kill, people do” ignores the fact that concealed assault weapons are much more lethal than a person who doesn’t.

Removing New York’s licensing requirement would allow terrorists to further exploit our already lax gun laws.

Second, repealing New York’s licensing requirement would allow terrorists to further exploit our already lax gun laws. The FBI has assessed that the abundance of guns in the United States makes us more vulnerable than other countries to terrorist attacks.

Al Qaeda and ISIS training materials have reportedly urged recruits to take advantage of the easy access to weapons in the United States, and terrorists have apparently heeded that advice. For example, investigators said a Saudi military pilot, working with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, used a Glock pistol he had legally obtained in the United States in 2019 to kill three people and injure eight others. at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida. Legally obtained assault pistols were also used by terrorists in the 2015 attack on an office building in San Bernardino, Calif. That killed 14 people and the 2016 attack on Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, which left 49 people dead. When even a former ISIS operative refers to US gun laws as “dumb”, we don’t need to make them more permissive.

Third, the increase in domestic terrorism and political violence in our country makes restrictions on concealed weapons more vital than ever. One of the likely reasons we haven’t seen even more bloodshed during the riot on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, which resulted in the deaths of five people, is the restrictive laws on guns in the District of Columbia. Most of the insurgents appear to have left their weapons at home. Imagine the carnage that could have happened if they had been free to bring in guns.

In this climate of increasing threats and violence against public officials, which rational actor would decide to put himself in danger as a lawmaker, school board member or election official when every indignant citizen you meet can carry a concealed firearm? ?

The Supreme Court’s decision, expected before next summer, will depend on the judges’ point of view on the text and the precedents, which can sometimes take unexpected turns. One of the last times the court ruled on a gun rights case, it struck down a law prohibiting people from owning unauthorized handguns in their homes. In that case, District of Columbia v. Heller, the majority essentially deleted from the Second Amendment the wording that the right to bear arms rests on a “well-regulated militia, necessary for the security of a free state.” It turns out that textualists are just textualists sometimes.

But like all rights, those described in the Second Amendment are not absolute. Constitutional rights can be restricted when states can demonstrate that the restriction is narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling government objective. As the court stated in Heller, the right to own and bear weapons “is not a right to own and carry a weapon in any way and for any purpose.” Consistent with this notion, the courts have long maintained restrictions on the carrying of concealed weapons, and the Supreme Court would be wise to follow this practice in this case.

Our Constitution carefully balances the rights of individuals with important government interests such as public safety, and gun laws must be viewed with both interests in mind. As Justice Robert Jackson wrote, we should not “convert the Constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact”.