Reload’s Stephen Gutowski on the biggest day in gun politics in decades
When it comes to gun policy, there has never been a day like Thursday. The Supreme Court issued a 6-3 decision striking down a concealed carry law in New York, its most significant decision on the subject since 2008. Hours later, the Senate passed a bipartisan firearms bill. fire, the first major package of gun reforms since 1994. This bill is expected to pass the House and become law.
To break down the implications, we reached out to Stephen Gutowski, who gives an in-depth account of guns on his site. Reloading and was named Journalist of the Year by the Second Amendment Foundation in 2021.
Below is our conversation, edited for length and clarity. (And in case you missed our earlier conversation on the gun bill, with Everytown President John Feinblatt, read it here.)
Q: The court ruling concerned a specific law in New York, but it is described as a turning point in how the court views gun rights more broadly. What does this mean for the future of gun laws?
Gutowski: The overriding importance of this decision has more to do with the standard the court has now set for Second Amendment cases in the future than it does with the specifics of that New York portage law, although Obviously, this will also have real impacts.
The reason the standard is more important is that it will affect virtually every case of firearms in the federal system from now on and will likely lead to a closer look at modern gun restrictions. fire arms. This would therefore include things like assault weapon bans, gun sales, licensing regimes, magazine restrictions, and gun liability requirements.
Basically, this will impact any regulations that are not rooted in the historic regulations from the founding era, when the Second Amendment was implemented. That doesn’t mean that if you restrict access to carrying a gun in a government-funded school, that kind of restriction wouldn’t hold water because there were no government-funded schools. government at that time. It’s more about whether they have any restrictions that are in the same vein, or the same concept, as what existed at the time.
Q: Ten years after this decision, will it be significantly different to live in a blue or red state when it comes to guns?
Gutowski: That’s a very good question. Everyone thought after Heller and mcdonalds that this would lead to the cancellation of a cascade of gun laws. But it wasn’t, really, and the court never really acted on that. Courts in blue areas, like the Ninth Circuit, continued to uphold most gun laws that many gun rights advocates say violated the Second Amendment. So now we have the court coming back here and saying specifically that those lower courts have done wrong for a decade.
I think it is entirely possible that this new standard of text, history and tradition will lead to disparate conclusions among courts across the country.
The Duke Center for Gun Law has a whole archive of historic gun restrictions, so if a judge wants to come to a different conclusion, he probably can. And in some cases, you’re likely to have people with good judgment coming to different conclusions with the same facts.
Concealed Carry “May Transmit” laws are sure to be removed. Assault weapons bans, magazine bans, firearms licenses, those are going to come under closer scrutiny in the courts. But if the Supreme Court wants to make sure lower courts follow this new standard, as the majority sees it, they’re going to have to take on more cases.
Q: The other big news is the Senate gun deal. Why is this bill passed when so many previous attempts have failed?
Gutowski: It seems that part of the Republican caucus, including members of the leadership, like Mitch McConnell and especially John Cornyn, have made the calculation that following Uvalde, which was a particularly horrific attack, that they had to give ground and show that they were doing something.
Q: Tell me a bit about the reaction of gun rights groups, as they seemed mostly insensitive to this argument. Is there anything different in their response to this bill?
Gutowski: Some of the groups, Gun Owners of America, Firearms Policy Coalition, are very adamant in their opposition to this bill. But the bigger groups with more influence on the Hill, like the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, publicly stated their opposition, but they were a bit more nuanced in their statements. They noted things they like about it, like school safety funding and the mental health intervention program that’s included in the bill, before finally saying they can’t support it. due to new gun restrictions.
But in politics, there are degrees of opposition, and that matters a lot. To what extent does the NRA oppose it? How opposed is the NSSF to this? What are they actually going to do to Republicans who vote for this bill? Will they spend money on campaigns attacking them in their home country? Because it hasn’t happened yet and the bill may be passed tomorrow. Will the NRA downgrade people’s grades on this bill? Probably, but they haven’t made that announcement yet.
So it’s opposition, but it’s certainly not the same kind of opposition that you would get if it was an assault weapons ban, or something that was trying to raise the age of possession of firearms. At the same time, there is literally no gun-friendly provision in any of this.
Q: Is there a specific provision that has raised alarm bells for gun rights advocates in this bill? Or is it more of a slippery slope argument that you think elicits opposition?
I think it’s a combination of both. Certainly, this bill almost prohibits many people from owning, or at least being sold, firearms. Anyone with a juvenile criminal record that includes a felony, domestic violence conviction, or involuntary commitment after the age of 16, no matter your current age, people will now be banned from selling you guns.
Q: Is the dam now breaking on more bills now that Republicans realize they can pass something without the sky falling? Or does it get harder for Democrats because Republicans now have this bipartisan bill they can point their finger at?
Gutowski: I think it’s way too early to tell. The vast majority of those Republicans who sign will not be re-elected any time soon. So how can you judge whether or not this was a political winner for them?
For Cornyn, who has been leading this effort on the Republican side, it’s not just how it’s going politically for him with his upcoming primary, which isn’t for quite a while, but also with his chances of becoming leader. He’s making a big bet that it’s going to help him, because the two other candidates who want to be the Republican leader, John Thune and John Barrasso, did not join.
You could take the example of Donald Trump. He unilaterally instituted a stockpile confiscation after the Las Vegas shooting. And what was the policy of that? That doesn’t seem to have hurt him too much with gun rights voters.
At the same time, it didn’t really seem to help him with gun control voters. I don’t know if there’s anyone on the left who gives Donald Trump credit for doing this. Then I do not know. It’s sometimes hard to tell with these things.