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This SCOTUS Endangers Us All

Judy Stone, MD

Disclosures

July 07, 2022

Six conservative members of the Supreme Court of the United States went on a rampage last week, destroying decades of precedence. They have made us all — particularly women — more unsafe. While all of their decisions were egregious, I'll focus on gun "rights" here. (I wrote about Roe v Wade in a separate post.)

Historian Michael Beschloss tweeted:

https://twitter.com/BeschlossDC/status/1540518947094728705?s=20&t=z1WzpnuUvJfKYz7l5r2ZHw">https://twitter.com/BeschlossDC/status/1540518947094728705?s=20&t=z1WzpnuUvJfKYz7l5r2ZHw

The court's decision on guns is a strong opening salvo in hurting liberals. The ruling in New York, for example, says that people have a right to bear arms in public. This will undoubtedly lead to more murders (largely by hot-tempered men), many of whom will likely get away with killing, claiming that they felt "threatened" and were simply "standing their ground." That this comes in the wake of an epidemic of mass shootings is particularly egregious. Clarence Thomas and his cronies should try living in the real world, not protected little bubbles.

Just this past week, in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, a man wearing a tactical vest and carrying a semi-automatic rifle and holstered pistol caused a panic. I certainly would have felt threatened if I had encountered him. What need is there for people to wander around in public with assault-style rifles?

If a man carrying a rifle came towards me and I panicked, thinking he might attack me, could I justify attacking him? If I did, would a jury find he acted in self-defense if he shot me? How much psychological terror will we allow because of this ill-considered decision? What will happen to all the previous victims of gun violence who are now faced with needless open carry of assault weapons?

Oklahoma, like a growing number of states, requires neither training nor a permit for open carry. So, what this guy did was legal; there was nothing the police could do about it. They were, however, able to arrest him for having brass knuckles, which are illegal.

I have no doubt that unregulated open carry laws will lead to additional deaths by police. Police officers may rightly be afraid for their own lives at the hands of open-carriers, and thus may "shoot first and ask questions later." Black persons are far more likely to be killed. I keep thinking back to cases like the examples below, when there was no actual threat.

A cop killed Philando Castile during a traffic stop. His fiancé recorded the shooting. She said Castile had a concealed carry permit and was reaching for his ID. The cop thought he was reaching for a weapon.

Another young Black man, John Crawford, was killed at a Cincinnati Walmart for carrying a pellet gun. Ohio is an open-carry state.

Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old playing in a park with a toy gun, was killed within seconds of the police's arrival on the scene.

Trayvon Martin was the 17-year-old killed by George Zimmerman who then successfully claimed the "stand your ground" defense. Trayvon's crime? Walking home from a convenience store, carrying a bag of Skittles, and encountering a neighborhood watchman.

There are so many other racially motivated killings. Vox reports that in 2012, Black persons accounted for 31% of victims of police shootings while only accounting for 13% of the population. "Black teens were 21 times as likely as white teens to be shot and killed by police between 2010 and 2012," they add, citing ProPublica.

While not a gun death, one could say that Sandra Bland, who was pulled over by a Texas state trooper for failing to signal, was needlessly killed by police. She died after being jailed for 3 days for this minor infraction. The police claim she committed suicide; her family questions that claim. Trooper Brian Encinia was fired following the event, and some police reforms were instituted.

It's not hard to imagine the bloodbaths we'll see following the court's decision to gut gun laws.

Of course, SCOTUS has been busy dismantling other rights. These include separation of church and state, both in the Maine ruling giving religious schools public funding and allowing a coach to pray during a school sports activity, saying this was personal. Tell that to the athletes who undoubtedly felt very coerced to join in. Would they have been as quick to support Muslim or Jewish prayers being led at schools?

But the most unjust and personally painful decision of this court is in reversing Roe v Wade, eliminating privacy rights and making a woman no more than an incubator for a fetus, regardless of her values or the risk to her health.

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About Dr Judy Stone
Judy Stone, MD, is an infectious disease specialist and author of Resilience: One Family's Story of Hope and Triumph over Evil and Conducting Clinical Research: A Practical Guide.

She survived 25 years in solo practice in rural Cumberland, Maryland, and now works part-time. She especially loves writing about ethical issues and advocating for social justice. Follow her at drjudystone.com or on Twitter @drjudystone.

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