Hello, Bulletin readers. Yesterday’s announcement that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy would retire has reverberations for a range of issues, including guns. What changes can we expect for gun policy in a post-Kennedy court? A law professor shares what he’s looking out for. But first, today’s other news updates.
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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY
Gun rights advocates in Pennsylvania derail a bill to limit domestic abusers’ access to firearms. On Monday, the president of a local gun group said he’d emailed lawmakers threatening to raise the issue with voters in the midterms. Later that day, the state House adjourned for the summer without a vote on the measure. “I’ve had my share of disappointing days,” said one gun reform advocate. “Today is beyond disappointing.” The bill had unanimously passed the state Senate in March. Related: Studies show that states with laws requiring people served with domestic-violence restraining orders to surrender their guns have lower rates of intimate partner homicides.
The Oregon Supreme Court ruled against a proposal to ban assault weapons. On Wednesday, gun rights advocates in the state celebrated another victory when the court upheld their legal challenge against the proposal to ban assault weapons in the state. The initiative has been sent back to its backers for revision with just eight days before the deadline to submit signatures. Last week, backers of a separate gun-related ballot initiative in the state abandoned their efforts amid challenges from the gun lobby.
A prominent gun rights advocate in Texas endorsed red flag laws. Former Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who wrote the state’s concealed-carry laws, told lawmakers this week that he believes extreme-risk protection orders could help prevent school shootings. In an interview with a local radio station, Patterson reiterated his support. Republican Governor Greg Abbott, who is also staunchly pro-gun, asked lawmakers to review ERPO laws after the Santa Fe school shooting last month.
Alachua County became the third county in Florida to close the background check loophole since Parkland. On Tuesday, county commissioners voted to pass a measure that would extend the waiting period to purchase a firearm to five days and require background checks for private gun sales. Officials expect the ordinance to take effect in just a few days.
More armed guards will welcome Broward County students back to school this fall. On Tuesday, the Broward County School Board voted to hire roughly 80 armed guards for the 2018-2019 school year. Most of the guards will be placed in elementary schools. After the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which is in Broward County, state lawmakers passed legislation to funnel millions of dollars into school security, including hiring armed guards.
A teenager who threatened to attack a graduation ceremony has been charged with terrorism. Police say the 19-year-old from Plumsted, New Jersey, told several people about the plot to shoot students and staff at a high school graduation and posted threats on social media. If convicted, the teen could spend up to 30 years in prison.
A stolen gun was used by a 14-year-old boy in an attempted robbery. On Monday night, the boy and his 16-year-old accomplice brought the gun to an elementary school parking lot in Ohio where they had arranged to meet with a man for a cell phone sale. The gun did not fire when the boy attempted to shoot the man because the 14-year-old had loaded the wrong caliber ammunition, according to police. Previously, on The Trace: Guns stolen from legal owners are increasingly being found at the scenes of crimes across the country.
A 3-year-old boy fatally shot himself with a gun he found in his parent’s car. The Missouri toddler was playing in the garage as his parents slept early Tuesday morning. Police say the weapon was sitting in the car, where the boy found it and accidentally discharged it.
Delaware’s governor signed a red flag law. On Wednesday, Governor John Carney put his signature to a bill that allow family and law enforcement to acquire a lethal violence protective order against someone who they believe may pose a risk to themselves or others. The measure is an expanded version of the Beau Biden Gun Violence Prevention Act, which Carney signed in April. A wave of red flag laws has swept through state legislatures since the Parkland shooting in February.
ONE LAST THING
How Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement could affect gun laws. Earlier this week, we brought you an interview with Georgia State law professor Eric Segall, who explained why the Supreme Court’s 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller to create an individual right to own guns for self-defense did not wipe gun laws off the books across the country. Heller “could have been worse. It will be worse if Justice Anthony Kennedy retires,” Segall said.
We published those remarks on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Justice Kennedy announced his retirement, effective July 31.
We went back to Segall for a followup. “The conventional wisdom is that the court hasn’t heard many gun cases since Heller because justices aren’t sure which way Kennedy was going to vote,” he told us. The more conservative justices often bristled at their colleagues’ reluctance to grant cert (that is, decide that a case warrants review by the court) to plaintiffs who sought to overturn state and local gun laws. “Justice Thomas has filed dissents on denials of cert,” Segall noted.
Now the retirement has been announced and the balance of power will likely shift. “Trump will certainly appoint someone with a lot of sympathy to the Second Amendment.” Segall predicted. “I would bet that five years from now, the Second Amendment will have a lot more force than it does today.” Segall said he believes pro-gun attorneys will bring more challenges to local laws that ban assault weapons or “may issue” concealed-carry licensing standards, which provide police discretion over who they allow to carry guns in public.
Segall said he doubted that conservative concerns about state rights would hinder pro-gun efforts in a post-Kennedy court. “This term, the court has struck down a number of reasonable state laws on First Amendment grounds,” he said. “This court does not care about state’s rights at all.” —Alex Yablon