According to a Majority of the Supreme Court, the Earps and Doc Holliday Were the Bad Guys at the O.K. Corral

The Smithsonian Magazine offers a brief history lesson regarding gun control:

Marshall Virgil Earp, having deputized his brothers Wyatt and Morgan and his pal Doc Holliday, is having a gun control problem. Long-running tensions between the lawmen and a faction of cowboys … will come to a head over Tombstone’s gun law.

The laws of Tombstone at the time required visitors, upon entering town to disarm, either at a hotel or a lawman’s office. Residents of many famed cattle towns, such as Dodge City, Abilene, and Deadwood, had similar restrictions. But these cowboys had no intention of doing so as they strolled around town with Colt revolvers and Winchester rifles in plain sight…

When the Earps and Holliday met the cowboys on Fremont Street in the early afternoon, Virgil once again called on them to disarm. Nobody knows who fired first….

The โ€œOld Westโ€ conjures up all sorts of imagery, but broadly, the term is used to evoke life … in small frontier towns โ€“ such as Tombstone, Deadwood, Dodge City, or Abilene, to name a few. One thing these cities had in common: strict gun control laws.

… Frontier towns by and large prohibited the โ€œcarrying of dangerous weapons of any type, concealed or otherwise, by persons other than law enforcement officers.โ€ Most established towns that restricted weapons had few, if any, killings in a given year.

But Justice Clarence Thomas and his reactionary colleagues have their own view of history. From Talking Points Memo:

Thomas, writing for the majority, slapped down New Yorkโ€™s 100-year-old concealed carry licensing scheme Thursday on the grounds that it has no historical analogue. [Wait, doesn’t a law that’s 100 years old have some history on its side?]

Government interest โ€” like protecting the safety of its citizens โ€” is not enough to get around the all-expansive Second Amendment, he writes. To be legitimate, a gun regulation must have a historical cousin….

The notion is farcical on its face: there must be some 18th or 19th century law mirroring any modern-day gun regulation, even for weapons that the people of that time could not have imagined existing?

Justice Breyer, joined by Justices Sotomayor and Kagan, focuses his dissent on the patent ludicrousness of determining constitutional rights solely through historical precedents.

โ€œWill the Courtโ€™s approach permit judges to reach the outcomes they prefer and then cloak those outcomes in the language of history?โ€ he ponders, before sketching out his argument that his conservative colleagues have done just that.

Breyer lays out his own list of cases ranging from English precursors to early American laws all the way up through U.S. law in the 20th century. He lists cases that he argues support New Yorkโ€™s licensing scheme, many of which the conservative majority found some reason to reject: โ€œtoo old,โ€ โ€œtoo recent,โ€ โ€œdid not last long enough,โ€ โ€œapplied to too few people,โ€ โ€œenacted for the wrong reasons,โ€ โ€œbased on a constitutional rationale that is now impossible to identify,โ€ โ€œnot sufficiently analogous,โ€ Breyer reels off.

โ€œAt best, the numerous justifications that the Court finds for rejecting historical evidence give judges ample tools to pick their friends out of historyโ€™s crowd,โ€ he writes….

[This decision] rings similar to Justice Samuel Alitoโ€™s draft opinion overturning abortion rights, which roots much of its argument in cases where abortion access was not protected in the countryโ€™s earliest days, and before. He asks [Americans] to unflinchingly accept that a constitutional right for women is only valid if it existed in a time when women were considered much less than full citizens.

To sum up, David Roberts on Twitter:

[The Supreme Court] is just going to keep doing stuff like this, worse & worse & worse….A tiny group of hyper-ideologues, forcing the rest of us to live medievally. That’s the current status quo trajectory….

“Neither the broad American public nor the center-left Democratic & media establishment understands or appreciates how [fucking] lunatic the right has gotten” is something I’ve been saying for two decades now. Was always true & still is.