The court must take into account threats to national security and public safety posed by concealable weapons
October 30, 2021
at 3:26 p.m.
This article is part of a symposium on the upcoming argument in New York State Rifle and Gun Association v. Bruen. An overview of the case is here.
Married B. McCord is Executive Director and Annie L. Owens is Senior Counsel at the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University Law Center.
New York State Rifle and Gun Association v. Bruen represents the first significant Second Amendment case to be considered by the Supreme Court since District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008. In Heller, the court ruled, for the first time, that the Second Amendment protects the individual right to own and bear arms in self-defense. But the court also clarified that the Second Amendment right is “not a right to keep and carry a weapon in any way and for any purpose,” and stressed that its ruling had not no impact on “long-standing” restrictions on possession and carrying of firearms. . The case currently before the court attempts to reduce long-standing restrictions on carrying concealed weapons, even though Heller acknowledged that “the majority of 19th century courts dealing with the matter ruled that bans on carrying concealed weapons were legal under the Second Amendment or state analogues.” Judges should not decide this case without careful consideration of the threat that concealable weapons pose to national security and public safety – the very reasons why long-standing restrictions on concealed carrying do not infringe the rights of the second amendment.
The immediate availability of firearms in the United States – including high powered concealable handguns like semi-automatic pistols – creates special national security and public safety concerns for communities. Foreign terrorist organizations have long urged their supporters to use lax U.S. gun laws to plan attacks in the United States. In 2017, an Islamic State propaganda video showed an American fighter, carrying a fatigues and a pistol in a holster, urging sympathizers in the United States to “”[t]take advantage of the fact that you can easily get a rifle or pistol in America “and”[s]pray to the kuffar [infidels] with bullets. A terrorist training manual circulated on al-Qaeda-related websites in the early 2000s instructed would-be terrorists to attend the “many gun courses available to the public in the United States,” such as “[h]and shooting lessons.
In several cases, those who were inspired or led by foreign terrorist organizations complied, carrying out mass shootings with concealable weapons that claimed many lives. In 2016, an attacker who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State shot dead 49 people at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The attacker was armed with a 9-millimeter Glock 17 semi-automatic pistol, among other weapons. At the time, the shooting was the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil since September 11, 2001. In 2019, a Saudi military pilot killed three people and wounded eight at Pensacola Naval Air Station with a pistol. Glock 9 millimeters which he had obtained legally. in the USA. The shooter, who had radicalized abroad, coordinated with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula on planning and tactics.
The national security concerns resulting from the ubiquity of guns in the United States are not limited to foreign terrorist organizations and their supporters. Mass shooters motivated by white supremacist and anti-immigrant ideologies have also used concealable firearms in successful attacks. Dylann Roof attended a Bible study at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, before unsheathing his .45 caliber Glock semi-automatic handgun and killing nine people. Robert Bowers used three Glock .357 handguns, along with an assault rifle, in his shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa., Killing eleven people.
The country has also seen a resurgence of armed political violence perpetrated by domestic anti-government extremist groups. In March 2020, anti-government figure Ammon Bundy founded the People’s Rights Militia, which staged violent and disruptive protests at the Idaho State Capitol against health restrictions linked to the pandemic. Bundy is asking members of his people’s rights group “to train in small militia-style groups of two to ten” to prepare to defend against the “government force that is evident coming upon us.” In April 2020, armed members of a self-proclaimed militia stormed the Michigan Capitol with hundreds of others to protest Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s imposition of restrictions related to the pandemic. In October 2020, members of the same group were arrested for planning “a violent overthrow of government and law enforcement,” which included a plot to kidnap the governor. Its members “met periodically for” field training exercises “… where they engaged in gun training and tactical drills to prepare … for a violent uprising against the government or an imminent politically motivated civil war “.
The state-level unrest was a prelude to January 6, 2021, when self-proclaimed militias and anti-government extremists led a violent assault on the United States Capitol. The attack, which aimed to thwart Congress’ fulfillment of its constitutional duty to count electoral votes in the 2020 presidential election, marked the first time that Capitol Hill had been violated by hostile forces since the war in 1812. Several private militia groups played a key role in organizing and instigating the attack, which FBI Director Christopher Wray called an act of “domestic terrorism”. Members of the Oath Keepers brought paramilitary equipment, including firearms, tactical vests, helmets and radios, and provided a ready-to-deploy rapid reaction force to prevent certification of the vote. Several people indicted in connection with the Capitol Riot reportedly brought firearms, including assault rifles and concealable handguns. A man was arrested at the Capitol Visitors Center with “a loaded handgun and a spare magazine”, while another who threatened to “shoot House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the head” was arrested with “An assault rifle equipped with a telescopic sight. , a Glock firearm with several high-capacity magazines and more than 2,500 rounds, including at least 320 “armor-piercing” rounds. Many other rioters, aware of Washington, DC’s gun protection laws and restrictions on carrying guns on federal property, did not bring guns, likely saving lives.
The lethality of concealable firearms is not the only threat to national security. Images of political unrest on the streets of America undermine confidence in the strength and stability of our democracy and damage our reputation in the world. Indeed, in the latest Fragile States Index, which measures the political stability of countries around the world, the United States experienced the largest decline in overall stability of any country in 2020, largely due to polarization. growing politics and associated violence.
The petitioners in New York State Rifle largely ignore these concerns, championing a holistic view of the Second Amendment right to bear arms for self-defense outside the home, which is especially dangerous in target-rich environments like New York, Washington, DC and elsewhere. Threats to national security and public safety – against which federal, state and local officials are charged with protecting themselves – must inform the Supreme Court’s decision in this case, as the consequences could be significant.