Chris Murphy's Supreme Court Conspiracy Theory

AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib

The bump stock case decided by the Supreme Court had nothing to do with the Second Amendment, at least on paper. Attorneys for Michael Cargill, the Texas gun shop owner who filed a lawsuit challenging the ban, didn't raise a Second Amendment argument in trying to overturn the ATF's ban; instead, they relied on an argument that the agency rule violated the Administrative Procedures Act. 


The justices also hinted that a legislative ban would be acceptable, to the point that Justice Samuel Alito essentially endorsed congressional action in his concurrence in Garland v. Cargill. So why is Connecticut's junior senator yammering about the Court "readying to fundamentally rewrite the Second Amendment”? 

Recent gun-related rulings from the high court, Murphy told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union,” signal it is prepared to “take away permanently the ability of Congress to do simple things like require people to go through a background check or move forward on taking dangerous weapons like AR-15s off of the streets.” 

“So I think this court is poised to make it very hard for Congress or state legislatures to be able to regulate guns and keep our communities and schools safe,” he said.

That's his takeaway from a decision that included this from one of the most conservative members of the Court? 

There can be little doubt that the Congress that enacted 26 U. S. C.§5845(b) would not have seen any material difference between a machinegun and a semiautomatic rifle equipped with a bump stock. But the statutory text is clear, and we must follow it. The horrible shooting spree in Las Vegas in 2017 did not change the statutory text or its meaning. That event demonstrated that a semiautomatic rifle with a bump stock can have the same lethal effect as a machinegun, and it thus strengthened the case for amending §5845(b). But an event that highlights the need to amend a law does not itself change the law’s meaning. There is a simple remedy for the disparate treatment of bump stocks and machineguns. Congress can amend the law—and perhaps would have done so already if ATF had stuck with its earlier interpretation. Now that the situation is clear, Congress can act.


Now, it's true that Garland v. Cargill is a positive development for those of us opposed to bans on so-called assault weapons, even if their constitutionality wasn't at issue in the case. The Supreme Court ruled that attaching a bump stock to a sem-automatic firearm doesn't turn it into a machine gun, which seems to put to rest the assertion from some lower courts that semi-automatic long guns are "like" machine guns even without a bump stock attached. The dissenting opinion by Justice Sonia Sotomayor acknowledged the "common" ownership of AR-15s and other semi-automatic rifles, which makes it difficult for anti-2A judges to argue these arms are not in common use. 

But if the Court is truly poised to "rewrite the Second Amendment" (or more accurately, to give it its full weight as a fundamental civil right), it's not in any hurry. In its orders list released Monday morning, the Supreme Court once again took no action on a half-dozen cases challenging the gun and magazine ban provisions of the Protect Illinois Communities Act while turning away an interlocutory challenge to several of New York's post-Bruen laws.  

Contrary to Murphy's assertion, we don't need new gun control laws to keep us safe. Homicides and violent crimes appear to be plunging across the country, including in plenty of cities where Constitutional Carry is the law of the land like Houston (murders down 21.6% compared to 2023), Dallas (-21.3%), San Antonio (-30.3%), Kansas City (-20.5%), Cleveland (-38%), Columbus (-42.7%). 


What we do need is a Court that's willing to address the continued civil rights abuses that are taking place in states like New York and Illinois; not at some undetermined point in the future but before their infringements destroy more businesses, ruin more lives, and destroy more freedoms. 

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