On Monday afternoon, just before a 5 p.m. deadline, justices on the Supreme Court appeared to send a message. For the second time in as many months, the court ruled that the Biden administration can, for now, continue regulating ghost guns — again overturning an injunction from right-wing U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor. But unlike the earlier ruling, which was made by a split court, no justice publicly dissented from this week’s decision. Per NPR, the Supreme Court essentially told O’Connor — and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the district judge’s order — to quit it with the “defiance.”

If history indicates anything, O’Connor is likely to ignore the rebuke. Since President George W. Bush appointed him to the Northern District of Texas in 2007, O’Connor has made a habit of issuing decisions that apply nationwide, and having them overturned in even conservative-dominated courts. His brazenness is one of the reasons he’s a go-to judge for, among other right-wing litigants, pro-firearms entities: Beyond his ghost gun efforts, O’Connor’s significant firearms rulings include striking a federal ban on interstate handgun sales (overturned on appeal) and, just this month, granting a new injunction against the Biden administration’s pistol brace rule

O’Connor is not an isolated case. Like many judges across the U.S. today, O’Connor has ties to the Federalist Society, the powerful conservative network steered by Leonard Leo that spent decades on a mission to fill the American legal system with right-wing judges. And his string of rulings illustrates a trend in the legal system: In recent years, The Atlantic reported, as the country has become more polarized, lower courts have been increasingly emboldened to grant injunctions that apply far beyond their jurisdictions. The Supreme Court’s 2022 Bruen decision, which instituted a vague historical test for determining the constitutionality of gun laws, kicked that legal disarray into high gear.

As journalist Chris Geidner wrote this week, the Supreme Court’s action on ghost gun regulation this week doesn’t necessarily mean that its conservative majority wants to change how judges like O’Connor or courts like the Fifth Circuit are operating: “The 6-3 conservative high court is more likely to take advantage of the extremism as often as, if not more than, it acts to stop it. … Occasional pushback from the justices to the most lawless moves from the appeals courts can become a feature, not a bug, of efforts to take the law in this country further and further to the right.”

But, Geidner continues, cherry-picking cases “could quickly be seen as a cover — a distraction — if the [Supreme Court] otherwise uses the lower courts’ extremism to advance a larger project of far-right legal overhaul. And that, in turn, could have long-term consequences for the court’s legitimacy.”

From Our Team

The Evolution of the Crime Gun

In this episode of The Gun Machine, we take a closer look at the one group of customers the firearms industry doesn’t want you to think about: criminals.

What to Know This Week

The Massachusetts House overwhelmingly approved a bill to overhaul the state’s firearm laws, voting 120-38 in favor of the legislation after a long debate period. Lawmakers rejected most proposed amendments during the discussion, but added a carve-out allowing off-duty law enforcement officers to carry weapons in otherwise prohibited places to address criticism from police chiefs in the state. [WBUR

In 2009, Remington Arms signed a product-placement deal to put one of its rifles in an installment of the popular “Call of Duty” video game franchise, company records show. Per a memo from Remington’s parent company, the deal was part of a larger effort to market their weapons to “young potential shooters.” [The Wall Street Journal

Murder and overall violent crime decreased in the U.S. last year, according to the FBI’s 2022 crime report, following historic spikes in 2020 and 2021 that were largely driven by gun violence. The FBI’s 2022 crime report is much much more reliable than the one for the year prior, thanks to a tweak in data collection, but it’s still limited: The data can’t account for the many crimes that are never reported to police. [The Washington Post/Jeff Asher/The Appeal]

The National Rifle Association is hiring for a position in Dallas, according to a recent post on the group’s LinkedIn page, some two years after the group announced that it planned on “dumping New York” and incorporating in Texas. Unless the NRA can find some creative lawmakers in the Lone Star State, that goal will remain unrealized while its legal battle with New York Attorney General Letitia James is underway. — Will Van Sant

Leonard Allan Cure was incarcerated for more than 16 years for a crime he did not commit. Just three years after his exoneration and release from prison, a Georgia deputy shot and killed Cure during a traffic stop. [Rolling Stone]

Like many cities in the U.S., Savannah, Georgia, is struggling to retain police officers. Department officials say new pistols with red-dot sights will help failing recruits pass the academy — but the law enforcement agency’s attempts to convince the City Council to approve funding for the firearms have cited misleading statistics and inconsistent facts. [The Current]  

Gun deaths among Americans under the age of 18 have dramatically increased in the past decade, CDC data shows, but experts say that the trend can be reversed. For the schools superintendent of Mansfield, Ohio, the key to preventing violence among young people revolves around one concept: hope. [The Conversation/Richland Source

U.S. Senators Alex Padilla, a Democrat from California, and Thom Tillis, a Republican from North Carolina, launched the upper chamber’s first bipartisan Mental Health Caucus after bonding over their individual experiences of caring for loved ones in mental health crises. First up on the unlikely duo’s agenda: implementing a historic investment in mental health services from last year’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the first federal gun reform law in nearly 30 years. [NBC

Guns and crime are shaping up to be major issues in the Republican presidential primary. The GOP hopefuls appear to largely agree that the country needs more police officers on the streets, but no new gun laws. [The New York Times

The state of Georgia is refusing to release evidence related to the January police shooting and killing of an activist protesting the construction of Cop City, a police training complex in Atlanta forestland. Police accountability experts say the decision not to make evidence available sets a “frightening” precedent. [The Guardian]

Exposure to gun violence contributes to poorer overall community health, according to a study from New Jersey’s Gun Violence Research Center at Rutgers University. Researchers found that higher levels of gun violence were associated not only with mental health harms like PTSD and anxiety, but also with poorer health behaviors related to sleep, cigarette use, and physical activity. [Journal of Urban Health

Louisiana conservative Jeff Landry decisively won his bid to become the state’s next governor, in an election that also handed Republicans their first supermajority in the Legislature since at least the Reconstruction Era. Landry, currently Louisiana’s attorney general, is expected to push for a permitless concealed carry measure after he takes office in January. [NOLA.com/Bolts

California Attorney General Rob Bonta is expected to file a lawsuit against the city of Vallejo alleging that its Police Department — notorious for its high rates of fatal shootings — routinely violates people’s constitutional rights and must be reformed. The state Justice Department is also anticipated to place Vallejo under a “sweeping” and “comprehensive” consent decree. [Open Vallejo

Quavo, one-third of the rap group Migos, has rarely spoken about the loss of his nephew, bandmate, and best friend, Takeoff, who was shot and killed in November 2022. He spent most of the past year out of the spotlight, processing his grief through music — culminating in the recent release of a solo album and a new role as an anti-gun violence activist. [The New York Times]

In Memoriam

Ronnie Caldwell, 21, was “everything you want your children to be,” one of his Austin, Texas-area high school football coaches told FOX 7: caring, hard-working, and a natural leader on and off the field. Caldwell was shot and killed near Northwestern State University, where he was an academic all-conference student athlete, in Natchitoches, Louisiana, last week. After starting as a safety last year, he was undeterred by an injury that kept him from playing football this fall, and became a de facto assistant coach — a skill he’d nurtured this summer as a volunteer coach for a youth baseball team. Caldwell loved working with kids; his mother, a teacher, said he would sometimes talk with her students “about how it’s OK to be a boy and love sports and still get your math and your reading done.” Perhaps more than anything else, Caldwell is remembered for his kindness: “He showed up every day and smiled,” an administrator at his high school said. “Just nice to everybody that he came across.”

We Recommend

44 Days

“Few Portlanders today have ever heard of the three men and a teenager killed nearly 50 years ago, but they live in a city that was shaped by the deaths. The response to the shootings — a civil-rights pressure campaign among the most organized and coordinated in the city’s history — led police to change their approach to both confrontations and minority communities, while residents became more aware of their city’s troublesome history with race relations and more supportive of efforts to bring about change. To friends and family of the four who were killed, however, there’s nothing abstract or symbolic about the long-ago police shootings.” [The Oregonian | OregonLive]

Pull Quote

“We should not underestimate our youth because they can learn, unlearn and relearn very quickly. And they can do the same thing with hope.” 

— Mansfield, Ohio, City Schools Superintendent Stan Jefferson, on efforts to reduce violence among students in his district, to Richland Source