In just a few hours, the United States has witnessed an example of the extreme legislative and judicial complications involved in that country’s minimal control over access to guns. On the one hand, the Senate has passed a historic law aimed at making its appropriation more difficult, albeit in a very fundamental way; On the other hand, the Supreme Court gave the green light to the public carrying of firearms in New York State, believing that the current legislation violates the Second Amendment of the Constitution. Hours later, Congress ratified the Senate text.
Amid a wave of indiscriminate killings that President Joe Biden has described as an epidemic, the initiative of twenty senators (Democrats and Republicans) prevailed Thursday night with a comfortable majority in the upper house (65 votes to 33 against). Though the text falls well short of White House aspirations, it strengthens background checks when gun buyers are under 21 and requires thorough screening of juvenile records, including records of mental illness, from the time the potential gunman is found Buyer turns 16 years old. It is a minimum commitment and does not include the President’s proposal to ban the sale of military rifles, limit the sale of large caliber ammunition and raise the minimum age for gun purchase from 18 to 21. Still, it’s the biggest legislative advance in 30 years. The House of Representatives approved the text by a vote of 234 in favor and 193 against.
The small relief for Americans was short-lived as the Supreme Court simultaneously struck down one of the most restrictive local gun laws in the country. New York State law required those who carry — carry, not display — a gun on public streets to be licensed and justify the necessity of carrying it. The same ultra-conservative Supreme Court that just abolished abortion says the precaution is unconstitutional. This is the High Court’s second-biggest decision to that effect since 2008, when it affirmed that the possession of weapons for self-defense in the home is constitutionally protected.
The situation is summarized in one step forward and two steps back. The Supreme Court ruling is a blow to the control of violence, it is a clear victory for the powerful lobby weapons and can have the detrimental effect of attracting a significant proportion of the population to gun ownership for fear of being vulnerable to an avalanche of indiscriminate attacks. Unfortunately, the debate rages on until the next shoot.