On the same day that the U.S. Senate overcame partisan gridlock to advance a modest piece of legislation that attempts to keep firearms out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, the U.S. Supreme Court took a bold step in the wrong direction.

In striking down New York state’s century-old concealed carry law, the six Republican justices have said states may no longer require people to show cause to be permitted to carry a gun in public.

The ruling will not directly affect Maine, which eliminated the need for a concealed carry permit in 2015, but it could have a profound effect on people in nine states, that are home to about a quarter of the American population.

A ruling like this that upsets legal precedent and longtime practice was easy to foresee when Senate Republicans eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations in 2017, and packed the court with right-wing justices on partisan votes.

But it still comes as a shock, just a month after mass shootings in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas, slammed the nation’s conscience enough to motivate a small measure of incremental progress on this issue of gun safety.

For the first time in three decades, gun-rights absolutists did not use their procedural clout in the Senate to block a bill from coming to the floor, and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said he would support the legislation.


Although it falls far short of what gun-safety advocates have called for, it would give gun sellers more time to check the backgrounds of 18- to 20-year-olds, like the Buffalo and Uvalde shooters who legally bought AR-15 assault rifles right after their 18th birthdays. It would also shrink the “boyfriend loophole,” excluding some unmarried partners from buying guns if they were convicted of domestic violence crimes.

The bill would also invest in mental health services, school security and help states pass “Red Flag Laws,” that let judges temporarily take guns from someone found to be a danger to themselves or others.

Taken together, these measures don’t add up to much in the face of a gun violence problem that makes any visit to a theater, church, shopping mall – or even an elementary school – a life-or-death situation.

But if this package is the first step toward a series of mature, bipartisan efforts to save lives and reduce fear, it is a welcome development. Maine’s two senators, Susan Collins and Angus King, were both on the right side of history on this vote.

Unfortunately, any progress has to be weighed against the Supreme Court’s ruling in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen.

Some of the justices tried to make it look like an incremental decision, in line with previous precedents, but it is not. Based on a selective reading of history, this “conservative” majority has created a right for people to carry guns in public.

But they can’t carry them everywhere, writes Justice Clarence Thomas for the court. Guns can still be banned from “sensitive places,” which no doubt will continue to include courthouses like the one in which he works. But states cannot demand that an individual have a reason to carry a weapon in parks, barbecues or political demonstrations where any dispute could turn deadly in the blink of an eye.

Gun deaths are a daily occurrence in America, more common than those caused by vehicle crashes. They come in the form of suicide, murder, accident and random mass killing. The one thing they all have in common is easy access to guns, made worse by irresponsible rulings by a partisan Supreme Court.

It will be up to the legislative branch to keep pushing if we are going to do anything to make people safer. Our elected representatives have no time to celebrate this victory. There is too much work to do.

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