The anti-gun left doesn’t take defeat well and few setbacks have been as devastating to the cause of civilian disarmament in America as the Supreme Court’s Bruen decision. That judicial earthquake, combined with the long march of permitless concealed carry across the nation — eleven states have enacted it since 2021 — has them on their heels. But as an op-ed in the New Yorker makes clear, at least some in the gun control industry
hope think they may see an electoral silver lining through all of the gloom.
Amy Davidson Sorkin notes that there are “a number of factors that are converging to make this a particularly critical moment in the story of guns in America.” She’s vervently hoping the Bruen decision and its aftermath will work for the anti-gun left the same way some claim the Dobbs decision affected the 2022 midterms.
The result is a judicial and legislative free-for-all that is intersecting, disastrously, with the 2024 Presidential race.
Sorkin notes with abject horror the Fifth and Sixth Circuits’ rulings that bump stocks are not, in fact, machine guns and that banning them via regulatory fiat doesn’t hold constitutional water. Those two decisions, combined with the District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia recently striking down a ban on gun sales to adults under 21, has her virtually apoplectic. But wait, there’s more.
She isn’t any happier about the “reckless posturing” of governors like Florida’s Ron DeSantis in signing permitless carry bills into law. She apparently sees no contradiction in the Court’s elevation — finally — of the Second Amendment to the status of a first-class civil right, and states issuing permission slips for the exercise of that right.
Sorkin, however, thinks there may be some light at the end of the long, dark Second Amendment tunnel. She’s putting her money on…polling data.
Yet there may be a parallel here to the right’s overreach on abortion since Roe v. Wade was overturned. There is widespread revulsion at mass violence and the toll that it takes, particularly on children. A Gallup poll a few months ago showed that, although most G.O.P. voters don’t want stricter gun laws, a majority don’t want looser ones, either. In a number of blue states, there are efforts under way to pass gun-safety laws that supporters hope will pass scrutiny under Bruen. On Tuesday, for instance, Wes Moore, the governor of Maryland, signed legislation restricting the places where people can bring guns—not to schools, hospitals, or polling stations. (The same day, the N.R.A. sued to block the law.)
The calculus here seems to be that, as with abortion, the middle won’t hold in support of gun rights. The thinking apparently goes that increased “gun violence,” thanks in large part to a re-think of what criminal justice means and “progressive” prosecutors deciding that actually prosecuting and jailing criminals is somehow inherently unjust, will cause moderates to tip the scales in support for more limits on gun rights. To do something about guns. Or something like that.
Set aside the fact that tens of millions of Americans from every demographic have decided that the current climate is exactly the right time to buy their first gun to ensure they can protect themselves and their families.
It’s downright adorable that Sorkin claims that the motivation of Governors like Maryland’s Wes Moore — and Kathy Hochul, Phil Murphy, J.B. Pritzker and a few others before him — is “gun safety” rather than a fit of pique, throwing up doomed obstacles to exercising gun rights in direct response to the Bruen ruling. They all know– and the courts are making it quite clear — that these laws are patently unconstitutional.
Thinking that Bruen and its aftermath will somehow push the electoral middle to the left on gun rights, with them voting for more limits on citizens ability to arm and defend themselves, is equal parts wishcasting and whistling past the graveyard of civilian disarmament dreams.
In the end, Sorkin can only survey the landscape and predict doom, destruction, and disaster.
The gun-law terrain has rarely been more unsettled. What makes the impending fight over gun safety, amid an election, all the more hazardous is Trumpism itself, with its incessant invocation of the prospect of political violence, and its message for America: if you want to make your way in this country, make sure that you have a gun.
It’s almost as if political violence is exactly what she’d most like to see.
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