A striking component of Justice Samuel Alito’s draft overturning abortion rights, besides its country-changing thrust, was its tone.
At times sneering, at others dismissive, he took a victory lap.
“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” he crowed then. “Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division.”
He takes a similar approach in his concurring decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn., Inc. v. Bruen, in which the conservative majority overturned a century-old New York licensing law that requires those applying for a concealed carry permit to show “proper cause,” explaining why they need it.
Playacting bafflement, Alito questions why the dissenting Justice Stephen Breyer feels the need to mention the extensive damage gun violence does daily in the United States.
“Why, for example, does the dissent think it is relevant to recount the mass shootings that have occurred in recent years?” he asks. “Does the dissent think that laws like New York’s prevent or deter such atrocities? Will a person bent on carrying out a mass shooting be stopped if he knows that it is illegal to carry a handgun outside the home?”
In other words — people sometimes break laws, so why have them? He then goes further.
“And how does the dissent account for the fact that one of the mass shootings near the top of its list took place in Buffalo? The New York law at issue in this case obviously did not stop that perpetrator,” he writes.
One gun law did not stop all mass shootings, he argues, so why bother?
He then gets personal in his trolling, dinging Breyer so aggressively that the liberal justice responds directly to the quip in his dissent.
“Like that dissent in Heller, the real thrust of today’s dissent is that guns are bad and that States and local jurisdictions should be free to restrict them essentially as they see fit,” Alito scoffs.
When he’s not busy needling liberals, Alito returns to his post of NRA spokesperson. New York, he posits, is a hellscape teeming with armed murderers and rapists. What’s a law-abiding citizen to do, besides arm herself to the gills in response?
“While the dissent seemingly thinks that the ubiquity of guns and our country’s high level of gun violence provide reasons for sustaining the New York law, the dissent appears not to understand that it is these very facts that cause law-abiding citizens to feel the need to carry a gun for self-defense,” he writes.
Shorter: the only solution to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Alito does not concern himself with the very recent examples — an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, the aforementioned grocery store in Buffalo — where armed “good guys” were present, and unable (or unwilling) to stop the slaughter.
Instead, he presses on, mimicking claims constantly spouted by the gun lobby: that Americans are constantly under siege and that danger lurks around every corner. The factual reality that our preponderance of guns is what makes us so vulnerable to gun violence can’t compete with that narrative.
“In 1791, when the Second Amendment was adopted, there were no police departments, and many families lived alone on isolated farms or on the frontiers. If these people were attacked, they were on their own,” he concludes. “It is hard to imagine the furor that would have erupted if the Federal Government and the States had tried to take away the guns that these people needed for protection. Today, unfortunately, many Americans have good reason to fear that they will be victimized if they are unable to protect themselves.”
While, in Alito’s telling, the absence of police departments was a compelling reason to be armed in the 18th century, their development seems somehow not to poke holes in his argument that Americans still need to be armed today.
But, hey, he’s got six votes. Cry about it, lib.