At Newsweek: The Supreme Court Has An Opportunity to Defend the Second Amendment
Dr. John Lott’s newest piece at Newsweek starts this way.
When it decides on NYSRPA v. Bruen—scheduled for oral arguments today—the Supreme Court will have a chance to stop governments from restricting the right to “bear arms.”
The part of the Constitution guaranteeing that right has long been ignored by many state and local governments, despite previous Supreme Court rulings that there is an “individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation” in the home.
The situation is worst in New York, California and six other “may-issue” states, where officials can turn down requests for a carry permit for any reason, or for no reason at all.
Robert Nash, one of the two gun owners who brought the latest case to the Supreme Court, experienced just how arbitrary the permitting process is in Rensselaer County, New York.
Several judges in the county do regularly issue permits for self-defense, but there are also a number of anti-gun judges who rarely, if ever, find that an applicant has “good cause” to carry a gun. Nash was unfortunate enough to be assigned an anti-gun judge.
Nash explained to the judge that there had been a string of robberies in his area, and that he wanted to carry a gun for protection. He was still denied.
“Other judges in the county, I could have submitted the same letter and they would have said ‘yes; in a minute,” Nash told Bearing Arms. “Even for lesser reasons. I’ve had other people that I know just say they want to protect their wife and kids and they get approved. Same county. Different judge.”
That’s not how constitutional rights should work. Imagine if our right to speak, or to vote, depended on being assigned a favorable judge who’d issue us permits.
New York state argues that ancient Supreme Court rulings back up its inconsistent gun rules. Its latest legal brief cites an 1897 Supreme Court majority opinion that said “The right of the people to keep and bear arms…is not infringed by laws prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons.”
However, in citing this obsolete ruling over more modern ones, New York ignores the anti-black, racist history of these laws. The same justices who made that 1897 ruling also infamously voted to allow segregated facilities in Plessy v. Ferguson.
Today, gun control laws still have a disparate impact on different races and genders.
When permit decisions rest solely with judges and bureaucrats, the few people who get carry permits in may-issue states often have special connections, or are relatively wealthy. These people are, on average, more likely to be white men. Those without connections, more often women and minorities, get the short end of the stick.
In California, former Orange County sheriff Mike Carona faced criminal charges after giving people permits in exchange for things like a $15,000 Cartier watch for his wife. A local TV affiliate found that Santa Clara County sheriff Laurie Smith was 14 times more likely to give a concealed gun permit to campaign donors.
In 2013, LA Weekly obtained a list of the 341 concealed carry permit holders in Los Angeles County, California. Internet searches indicated that the list was disproportionately white and male, with only 7.6% female and 5% black.
The numbers are very different in “shall-issue” states, which issue permits to anyone who is legally eligible. In those states, as of 2012, 29 percent of permit holders are women. Eleven percent are black, which is nearly proportional to the general population, per the latest census.
You might think that women who obtained criminal protective orders or people who live in dangerous parts of town would find it easy to meet the standards to show “proper cause” in a may-issue state. But you would be wrong—in many places, even these applications are often denied.
In San Francisco, a woman with a court protective order never got a permit, while the sheriff’s personal lawyer did.
A New Jersey man was denied a permit even though he was threatened and robbed at gunpoint in the past, and currently manages a risky ATM business. But police said he does not have a need to carry.
The laws stop almost everyone. Only about 1 percent of adults in may-issue states have a permit to carry. In the other 42 states, 10.8 percent of adults have a concealed handgun permit.
All these restrictions—and for what?
New Yorkers who travel outside of their state won’t suddenly find themselves in the Wild West, even though 14.4 percent of adults have a permit in neighboring Pennsylvania, nearly 10 percent have one in Connecticut, and Vermont has never even required a permit.
A study I coauthored in 1997 found that crime falls when more law-abiding people can carry guns to protect themselves. Since then, 52 academic, data-focused studies have been conducted, and of these, 25 found that letting people carry reduces violent crime. A minority (12), which selectively pick particular periods of time, found increases in violent crime, while 15 found no significant effect.
These studies are no surprise. Concealed handgun permit holders are extremely law-abiding. Letting good people carry guns saves lives. In the states with the most transparent data, Florida and Texas, permit holders are convicted of firearms-related violations at one-twelfth of the rate at which police officers are convicted.
But at issue in this case is the question of whether a “good reason” provision makes things safer, and the revocation rate is slightly higher in may-issue states.
And if my research has convinced me of anything, it is that the most vulnerable people in our society – poor blacks who live in high crime urban areas and women – benefit the most from having guns for protection.
Sadly, in may-issue states, a system of favoritism has taken hold, and the very people who need protection most get ignored more than anyone else.
That needs to change. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will soon let all Americans defend themselves and their families.
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