Having spent a couple years now telling anyone who would read her columns that the Supreme Court was nothing more than some political hackary, with illegitimate justices sitting in stolen seats, doing the bidding of their partisan puppet masters to execute their evil plan to destroy the nation, Linda Greenhouse created the foundation for her latest and finest effort to beg the question.
Back in January, I devoted my first column of the new year to the growing impatience of some members of the court for a chance to move the boundaries of the Second Amendment from the home — where its 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller had located the amendment’s protection of the right to bear arms — out to the wider world. A few weeks later, the court agreed to hear the first Second Amendment case in nearly a decade.
The only basis for Greenhouse’s “growing impatience” is Greenhouse’s claim of “growing impatience.” The Second Circuit had done yeoman’s work promoting New York’s hatred of*, and protection from, guns, basically daring the Supreme Court to reverse them. For a decade, the Supreme’s demurred. Until New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. City of New York.
The case reflected a violation of the Second Amendment so flagrant, so blatant, that it couldn’t be ignored. And New York, recognizing that it was doomed, sought to game its way out of a decision that could be disastrous for the rest of its anti-gun regime.
But while the New York case, which does not yet have an argument date, emerged this spring as a significant test of the justices’ Second Amendment appetite, it has become in recent weeks something even more. On July 22, New York City filed with the Supreme Court a “suggestion of mootness” and a request to suspend the briefing schedule. The city explained that two interlocking developments had occurred: In the session just ended, the State Legislature had amended the handgun licensing statute to require localities to allow licensed handgun owners to transport their guns to second homes and target ranges outside the city; and the New York City Police Department, which supervises gun licensing, had amended the prior regulation to permit the same activities. The city argued that since the lawsuit had challenged only the second-home and shooting-range limitations, the plaintiffs now had everything they had asked for and there was nothing left for the Supreme Court to decide.
The Supremes didn’t blink this time, and rejected this attempt to moot the question which not only had a great likelihood of coming back as soon as the case was trashed, but reflected the far deeper, far more pervasive, unconstitutional regulatory scheme. So the newest and coolest narrative is whether the keeper of the Supreme Court’s institutional integrity, C.J. John Roberts, will bend to the will of the maddening crowds.
There’s a fascinating transparency to the evident stalemate over whether to keep the case or dismiss it. Plainly, the conservative justices don’t want to throw away their shot. (Pardon the irresistible image.) But here’s an interesting angle: It takes four votes to accept a case, but it requires five to dismiss a case once accepted. Where is Chief Justice John Roberts?
Greenhouse goes on to note a brief filed on behalf of some students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, who endured a mass shooting.
Their stories are heart-rending, but that’s only part of the point.
Are constitutional rights dictated by the most “heart-rending” story?
The brief’s real message lies in the description of the political activity that each young person has undertaken as part of an effort to reset the country’s approach to guns.
Are constitutional rights dictated by the efforts of a handful of young persons? Another amicus brief was filed by five Democratic senators, who apparently aren’t willing to risk tears and Greenhouse’s imaginary motivations and incentives to make their point.
The brief ends with this ominous warning:
The Supreme Court is not well. And the people know it. Perhaps the Court can heal itself before the public demands it be “restructured in order to reduce the influence of politics.” Particularly on the urgent issue of gun control, a nation desperately needs it to heal.
Translation: Nice nine-person Supreme Court you have there. It would be a shame if anything happened to it.
Pretty extreme for a “quirky” case, but one that has the potential to fundamentally alter the gun paradigm in New York and the Second Circuit. If Roberts can’t be broken by tears, then maybe a pointed threat to pack the court will do the trick.
*The only exception, apparently, is guns in the hands of black kids in Brooklyn, for whom possession of an illegal gun was still wrong, but understandable, per Emily Bazelon.