Earlier today, Gallup released a national poll of American adults about gun policy. They reported that "The 66% of Americans who now want laws covering the sale of firearms to be stricter is up 14 percentage points and is the highest since shortly after the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting in 2018. A record-high 55% of Americans have an appetite for not only enforcing existing gun laws more strictly but also passing new gun legislation. And with the midterm elections looming, 55% of U.S. registered voters say gun policy will be 'extremely important' to their vote, while another 27% consider it 'very important.' The percentage of U.S. adults who name guns as the most important problem facing the nation spiked this month. Taken together, these findings signal that there is considerable pressure on lawmakers to pass gun reform legislation."
[V]oters have become increasingly likely to say gun policy is extremely important to their vote. The 55% of voters who now say it is extremely important to their congressional vote this year, and the combined 82% who say it is extremely or very important, are by far the highest on record for any congressional or presidential election year since 2000.
Democratic (65%) and Republican (54%) voters are more likely than political independents (48%) to say gun policy is extremely important to their vote in November.
Additionally, 8% of U.S. adults cite guns as the most important problem facing the nation, in an open-ended question. This is up from 1% in May. The percentage naming guns has only been higher twice before-- 10% after Littleton in 1999 and 13% after Parkland in 2018.
There is broad, bipartisan public support for five specific measures aimed at curbing mass shootings like the one in Texas last month. Requiring background checks for all gun sales (92%) is the most popular of the proposals, but prohibiting those deemed a danger to themselves or others from purchasing guns (86%) also enjoys broad support. Similarly, allowing courts to order the confiscation of guns from dangerous individuals-- red flag laws-- is widely popular with the public (81%) and partisans of all stripes.
Requiring a 30-day waiting period for all gun sales (77%) and raising the legal age at which people can purchase certain types of guns from 18 to 21 (76%) are supported by all Americans, including 65% of Republicans.
Although 55% of Americans overall back an outright ban on high-capacity magazines that contain more than 10 rounds of ammunition, Republicans' (36%) and independents' (49%) support falls below the majority level.
The Supreme Court's rightists' response was a huge, collective, "FUCK YOU, AMERICA! The 6 right-wing partisan hacks on the illegitimate Court voted to strike down a New York state gun law limiting guns in public by making it difficult to obtain a permit to carry a handgun outside the home, claiming, incorrectly, that it was at odds with the Second Amendment. Bloodthirsty NRA allies across the country have already started suing in their own (blue) states.
Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a dissenting opinion. The NY Times reported that Breyer "took particular note of mass shootings, noting that there had already been 277 in the United States this year-- a number that increased by two after he wrote the dissent."
Congressman Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), a former public school principal in the Bronx, sent this message to his constituents:
Just this morning, six Republican Supreme Court Justices struck down a pivotal New York State gun safety law. The law required people to show a special need to carry a handgun in public, preserving the safety and security of everyone around them.
Today's ruling is both unconscionable and unsurprising. A court hijacked by right-wing extremists is hell-bent on making our communities more dangerous and trampling on every citizen's right to feel safe when they're walking down the street, going to the store, or simply dropping their kids off at school.
Enough is enough. The Supreme Court made the wrong decision today. We don't need any more lip-service from people who claim to respect "state's rights." The people of New York were clear on this issue, and today the Court spat in our faces.
Our kids are not safe. Black and brown communities are not safe... The data is clear. More guns in circulation leads to more gun violence-- and Black and brown communities bear the brunt of this trauma. In a recent Politico poll, 88% of Americans support requiring background checks on all gun sales. And 85% of Americans support preventing sales of all firearms to people reported as dangerous by a mental health provider.
Unfortunately, this is just the beginning of a handful of expected anti-democratic laws set to strip away our collective rights. From challenging abortion rights, to taking away our voting rights, to halting efforts to fight climate change, now more than ever we need bold leaders in Congress to fight for our values.
Writing for The Atlantic today, Timothy Zick, a professor of law at William & Mary Law School and author of the forthcoming book Managed Dissent: The Law of Public Protest, noted that this ruling "will have major implications for what it’s like to be an American. Are people carrying guns at schools and shopping malls and public parks? What about at churches and synagogues and mosques? What is it like to pray in places where fellow supplicants are armed? Courts and legislatures will have to decide whether people can carry guns at protests and political demonstrations, in voting booths, on the subway and bus, and in pretty much every other public space in American life. The Supreme Court spent several decades determining where in the public square-- streets, sidewalks, airports, fairgrounds, public libraries, public plazas-- speakers have a First Amendment right to communicate. The Court’s answer-- not in every place, and not equally in all places-- is probably a harbinger for how the justices will determine the 'sensitive places' where firearms can be restricted. After all, something must be done to stem the flow of weapons into all parts of the public square. Even with the staggering frequency of mass shootings in our country, the Supreme Court in Bruen has now limited states’ discretion in regulating guns. New research by the Violence Project on mass shootings from 1966 to 2019, funded by the National Institute of Justice, finds that more than three-fourths of mass shooters bought 'at least some of their guns legally.' If states can no longer use discretion to limit the number of people and places with guns at the permitting stage, identifying 'sensitive places' will become an important means of restricting the presence of firearms in the public square."
He pointed out that most states-- including even backward red states-- "have robust public-carry rights... chock-full of bans on public carry in a host of locations. They include public transit, polling places, areas near permitted events, athletic facilities, public swimming pools, riverboat casinos, school-bus stops, pharmacies, business parking lots, public highways, amusement parks, zoos, liquor stores, airports, parades, demonstrations, financial institutions, theaters, hotel lobbies, tribal lands, and even gun shows... Nearly 15 years ago, the Court indicated that public carry of firearms could be restricted or even banned in at least some places."
What the justices failed to mention is that having arms in the public square during protests threatens the exercise of First Amendment rights to speak and peacefully assemble.
This is a real trade-off, not a theoretical one. Empirical evidence, including the doctoral work of one of this article’s authors, Diana Palmer, demonstrates that most individuals are far less likely to participate in protests if they know firearms will be present there. When asked if they would attend a local rally on a topic they cared about if they knew some protest participants would be carrying firearms, 71 percent of survey participants said they were unlikely or very unlikely to attend. An American Psychological Association poll found that more than three-quarters of adults fear mass public shootings and one-third avoid some public places because of that fear. Armed individuals and groups in Charlottesville, Virginia; Kenosha, Wisconsin; and other cities altered the traditional character and function of the public forum, a venue for the free and peaceful exchange of ideas. While gun-rights proponents may advocate for unrestricted freedom to carry guns to protests, preservation of First Amendment rights means policy makers must ensure that in the public forum people enjoy freedom from fear, intimidation, and interference with free expression.
Non–Second Amendment constitutional values are also implicated in other private and public places, as the law professor Darrell A. H. Miller noted in a 2019 article. Like public forums, university campuses facilitate the free exchange of ideas, and churches provide a sanctuary for the free exercise of religion. Polling places are locations where citizens are, or should be, able to exercise their right to vote free from intimidation or coercion.
Critics may argue that designating a place as “sensitive” will not guarantee that murderers will abide by the designation. While that’s true, it misses the point. Nearly 400 million firearms are owned by civilians in the U.S. We have arrived at a crossroads where we must determine, as a nation, how freely firearms will flow in public and private places. The Bruen decision has removed another important power of government to limit public carry. America’s highest Court has embraced an interpretation of the Second Amendment that will ensure more guns will be carried in more public places. For the foreseeable future, guns will continue to be part of the warp and weft of American life. That the question of “sensitive places” is now front and center is a sign of where the country is with its gun laws—fighting over the margins of its expansive gun freedoms, not whether those freedoms should be so expansive in the first place.