The mainstream media would never admit it, but the verdict is in on concealed carry. The nearly 25-year plummet in violent crime is in part the result of concealed carry, and the (always absurd) predictions of a “Wild West” mentality where permit holders go to guns over minor disagreements has never remotely materialized.
In fact, a slightly astonishing opposite is true, as this reveals: The extremely law-abiding police (duh) are six to ten times less law-abiding than permit holders.
Despite these massive proofs that yes, the average man or woman can clearly be trusted to own and carry a firearm, the 2016 election represents a major threat to this pervasive societal benefit, although the mechanism may surprise you: the Supreme Court. We could hope that Justices Breyer and Ginsburg would retire and take their citizen-disdain with them.
You’d be right to observe that things have been going the Second Amendment’s way—at least somewhat—in the last few years. But not all the justices needed to keep a pro-gun majority are likely to continue on the bench through the first four-year tenure of POTUS 45.
Second Amendment stalwarts gave us narrow 5-4 wins in the District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago (2010) cases. Of those five justices, Chief John Roberts (age 60) and Associates Clarence Thomas (67) and Samuel Alito (65) would very likely serve through a four-year term. Eight years, however, might prove chancy. Unlikely to continue are Justices Scalia and Kennedy: The spirit might be ever so willing, but at 79 years of age for both, the flesh might prove weak.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but can you imagine any replacement appointed by Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Martin O’Malley or Bernie Sanders who would assert: “Self-defense is a basic right” and “the central component” of the Second Amendment’s guarantee of an individual’s right to keep and bear arms? (Clarence Thomas, here.)
On the other side, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a likely candidate for retirement (age 82). If it appears that a conservative is likely to win the White House, President Obama might seek to replace her before leaving the White House. Such a gambit would be uncertain, given that Republicans control the Senate, where confirmation takes place.
Justice Ginsburg would not be missed by American gun owners, believing as she does that “… the Second Amendment is outdated … its function has become obsolete.” That whole “free State” thing? Just never you mind!
Justice Stephen Breyer, at 76, may be on the cusp as well: He would likely try to stay if a Republican were to win the White House, although at nearly 77, he would probably prefer to retire. Simply put, he has been no friend to firearms ownership, dissenting in both Heller and McDonald. In his dissent of McDonald, his animosity was clear: “In sum, the Framers did not write the Second Amendment in order to protect a private right of armed self-defense.”
The most junior of the associate justices are both Obama appointees: Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor—55 and 61, respectively. They are also comprehensively opposed to a meaningful Second Amendment. As the Washington Times put it, “Ms. Kagan is Justice Sotomayor’s soul sister when it comes to gun control … insisting the Supreme Court had never found that an individual right to self-defense exists.” It’s not just that you have no right to armed self-defense, but that you have no right of individual self-defense. Submit to whatever comes along, or else.
Digest that notion before we continue: It’s not just that you have no right to armed self-defense, but that you have no right of individual self-defense. Submit to whatever comes along, or else.
There is a possible good outcome, but it will take some serious effort. If a Republican—and it needs to be a solidly pro-Second Amendment Republican, not some vacillating, gun-rights Johnny-come-lately—wins in 2016, an individual right of firearms ownership and self-defense will likely survive another decade, perhaps several, as Justices Breyer and Ginsburg would likely retire and take their citizen-disdain with them. Their places on the bench could then be used to augment Roberts, Alito and Thomas, though the latter might join Scalia and Kennedy and retire. Still, the 45th president in a single term could give the Second Amendment the durable protection of a 6-3 or even 7-2 majority.
Putting Hillary Clinton or one of the other anti-gun Democrats in the White House in 2016 would do just the opposite: If a single supporter of the Second Amendment were to leave the bench through any mechanism, the Court could turn a minimum of 5-4 the wrong way. An incumbent victory in 2020 would then solidify this disadvantage, probably to 7-2 against (with only Alito and Roberts remaining).