When the news of the agreement in the US Senate rushed across the screens late in the evening, the Supreme Court verdict was already twelve hours old. Actually there are less than 500 meters between the two American institutions. On Thursday it was worlds.
The Supreme Court ruled that carrying a gun is a fundamental right of US citizens. In doing so, the chief justices overturned a New York state law that had been in effect for more than a century and required citizens to obtain a license and provide a valid reason for carrying a (concealed) handgun in self-defense want.
In the same state, an 18-year-old had killed ten people at a supermarket in Buffalo five weeks earlier, apparently for racial reasons. The shooter had bought his assault rifle legally.
Congress in Washington took action in response to Buffalo and the massacre at an elementary school in the small Texas town of Uvalde a week later, in which an 18-year-old murdered 19 children and two teachers with an assault rifle.
A bipartisan group of Democrats and Republicans drafted a bill that would include expanded background checks on gun buyers under the age of 21, billions in funding for school safety and better mental health services across the country.
A ban on the sale of assault rifles, as demanded by US President Joe Biden during the election campaign, is not included. Nevertheless, the law, which was approved by at least 15 Republicans in the Senate and passed the House of Representatives on Friday by 234 to 193 votes, would be the largest gun law reform in 28 years. It now has to be signed by US President Joe Biden.
This is now opposed to the Supreme Court verdict, which caused horror among many Americans. Biden expressed “severely disappointed” and “concerned”. New York’s Democratic Mayor Eric Adams, a former police officer, said the decision made everyone’s life more unsafe and ignored the problem of rampant gun violence.
The state’s governor, Kathy Hochul, who is also Democratic, announced that she would quickly introduce a new law.
Gun violence has increased sharply in recent years in New York, Washington and many other American cities. Hochul’s predecessor, Andrew Cuomo, declared a disaster in the summer of 2021 after gun violence had doubled in the first year of the pandemic, 2020, compared to the previous year.
Nationwide, almost 35 percent more people were shot dead in 2020 than in 2019. In addition, more and more weapons are being sold, including to women who want to use them to defend themselves. More pistols and rifles were purchased in the United States in 2020 than ever before. It is estimated that around 390 million weapons are in circulation – more than the country has inhabitants.
But after massacres like those in Buffalo and Uvalde, the solution proposed by many Republicans who invoke the second amendment to the constitution is usually: More guns mean more security. After school shootings, there are often calls for teachers to be armed.
The six conservative judges in the Supreme Court also referred to the constitution, and with their large majority, they have the potential to massively change coexistence in America – not only with this judgment, but also on the abortion issue.
After the end of the New York law, it is now expected that similar regulations could fall or have to be revised in at least six states, including Washington DC.
Arch-conservative Judge Clarence Thomas, who wrote the ruling, said: “Every individual has the right to carry a pistol outside the home in self-defense.” It has been allowed in the home since a landmark ruling in 2008.
Since ex-president Donald Trump shifted the weight of the Supreme Court to the right by appointing a total of three judges, the court’s reputation has been declining. The Supreme Court is acting against the will of the majority of Americans on both gun law and the expected verdict on the abortion issue.
In a recent survey by the polling institute Gallup, only 25 percent of those questioned said they had great trust in the court, a historic low. In the previous year it was still 36 percent.
Tensions in the court itself are also apparently increasing, with reports of heated discussions. The three judges, who disagreed with the majority view, explicitly referred to Buffalo and Uvalde when warning about the implications of the ruling. The conservative judge Samuel Alito then stated that the New York law obviously hadn’t stopped the perpetrator.