Tuesday, June 28, 2022

This Crumb Is Mine

The recent Supreme Court decision in NYSRPA vs. Bruen is a huge win for gun owners in (now formerly) "May Issue" states and for Second Amendment activists everywhere.  For those folks who don't know what that term means, here is a brief explanation:

  • Shall Issue means that so long as an applicant doesn't have any disqualifications (such as being a felon), then when they apply for a concealed carry permit the state shall issue it to them. In other words, "You get it unless there's a solid reason why you can't."
  • May Issue means that when you apply for a permit, even if you don't have any disqualifications, the state may just decide that for whatever reason that they don't want you to have it. In other words, "The state may issue a permit to you if it feels like it."
In the above case the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, representing petitioners Brandon Koch and Robert Nash, sued the Superintendent of the New York State Police Kevin Bruen (the head of the organization which issues such permits) under the assertion that New York state's requirement of needing a "proper cause" for receiving a concealed carry permit violated their Second and Fourteenth Amendment rights. 

(That's the short version. If you'd like to get into the details, I suggest you read the entire SCOTUS brief here.) 

Unless you've been living under a rock the past week, you know that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the petitioners. Specifically, the ruling says:
Held: New York’s proper-cause requirement violates the Fourteenth Amendment by preventing law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms in public for self-defense.
It then goes on to declare all May Issue laws unconstitutional. This means that the eight May Issue states (CA, DE, HI, MA, MD, NJ, NY, RI) can no longer deny a qualifying individual a concealed carry permit "just because," meaning that all 50 States are now either Shall Issue or Unrestricted Carry. This is an incredible victory for the Second Amendment and its advocates, and it's a victory that I'm proud to have been a small part of. 

As you may recall, last year I reported that I worked closely with the amazing lawyers Charles Flores and Daniel Nightingale of the law firm Beck Redden to give them the information they would need to craft an effective Amicus Curiae brief for this. "It's not my intention to tell you how to do your jobs," I said, "because I'm not a lawyer and I've never written an AC brief before. It would be great, though, if you included [facts X, Y, Z] to show that queer people are disproportionately victims of violent crime, and then write the brief such that New York had to choose between giving us the ability to carry guns for self-defense or stating that they'd rather we die than carry in public."

I cannot say enough good things about Flores and Nightingale. They listened to my blathering and wrote a brief that combined our position (Members of the LGBT community are disproportionately victims of violent crime) with the position of the Jews for the Preservation of Firearm Ownership (Religious minorities are disproportionately victims of violent crime) and the DC Project (Women are disproportionately victims of violent crime), then tied it all together by stating that None of these groups can rely on law enforcement for protection and The right to bear arms in public is a necessary, effective tool that people in marginalized groups can use to defend themselves. I encourage you to read the entire brief here; it's a fast read and it's a thing of beauty to witness. 

But here's the thing which I most wanted to share with you. This is from ultra-conservative Justice Alito's concurrence: 

That highlighted portion is the origin story of the Pink Pistols, as told by Jonathan Rauch in his March 14, 2000 article in Salon Magazine. In some small way, Operation Blazing Sword - Pink Pistols helped  to destroy May Issue, and that's amazing. In some even smaller way, I helped make that happen, because of the information I gave to the lawyers at Beck Redden. 

I often disparage myself because I feel like I don't do enough. I feel like a failure, like I haven't accomplished anything worthwhile. But now, whenever I feel that way, I will look at the tiny crumb of credit I feel I've earned by helping eliminate May Issue, and I can say "This crumb is mine. Even if I accomplish nothing else in my life, I did this. If I have no other legacy, then this is sufficient."

99.999999999% of the credit goes to other people: petitioners Brandon Koch and Robert Nash, the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Beck Redden LLP, and a host of others. 

But this crumb of gold is mine, and I will treasure it always. 

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