Home / General / Supreme Court kneecaps Congress and the administrative state to advance its own policy preference (enabling more mass murders)

Supreme Court kneecaps Congress and the administrative state to advance its own policy preference (enabling more mass murders)

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An important point about Garland v. Cargill is that it was not a Second Amendment case, although it is informed by the same underlying principle that informs all of the current Court’s gun control jurisprudence (the state limiting the ability of people to acquire deadly weapons is very bad.) Rather, the Court held that when Congress banned civilian ownership of guns that “automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger,” it did not enable the Trump administration rules that prohibited bump stocks that transform semi-automatic weapons into weapons that automatically fire more than one shot by a single function of the trigger.

As Justice Sotomayor explains, this is a silly distinction:

As a matter of history, when Congress banned “machineguns,” it entailed weapons with a variety of firing mechanisms:

Properly understood, the applicability of the statute to bump stocks is obvious:

And as Sotomayor observes, outside of the context of gun control the Court generally does not interpret statutes in ways that allow them to be easily evaded contrary to their general purpose:

This is a critical point, especially in light of Alito’s insistence in his concurrence that “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.” Congress has acted. Bad actors found ways to evade the will of Congress, and the Court backed them up. There’s no reason to believe that the cycle wouldn’t just start over again, and the Madisonian system is just not equipped to engage in a constant game of whack-a-mole. Alito, along with Clarence the Headless Thompson Gunner and the rest of the majority, surely understands this, crocodile tears notwithstanding.

Willfully misreading statutes to reduce the power of the executive branch to reach policy conclusions the Court disagrees with — the Roberts Court in a nutshell. And this is an illustration that judicial review per se isn’t the only issue — statutory interpretation has been a powerful tool of usurpation in numerous contexts.

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