Massachusetts Must Prioritize Health Over Supreme Court Edicts

A bump stock is a device that transforms a firearm which  discharges one bullet when the trigger is pulled into an automatic weapon that will fire 400–800 bullets per minute when the trigger is pulled.

This modification functionally converts a legal firearm into a “machine gun,” a device that can be regulated and banned as a result of the 1934 National Firearms Act, the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act of 1986.

After bump stock-modified weapons were used to murder 60 people attending a music venue and injure 413, the Trump Administration banned the sale or possession of bump stocks in 2018.

On June 14, 2024, the US Supreme Court ruled that a bump stock-modified weapon is not a “machine gun” and thus its sale cannot be restricted.

This controversial decision was met with strong opposition from several justices. In her dissenting opinion, Justice Sotomayor stated:

“When I see a bird that walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck. A bump-stock-equipped semiautomatic rifle ‘fires automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.’ §5845(b). Because I, like Congress, call that a machinegun [sic], I respectfully dissent. . . . Today’s decision to reject that ordinary understanding will have deadly consequences.”

For a visual comparison demonstrating the functional equivalence of a bump-stock and a machine gun, consider watching this brief YouTube video.

The US Supreme Court Rejects its History 

The Supreme Court’s bump stock decision is just one example of a broad trend of issuing rulings that undermine public health and safety, by disregarding judicial precedent and historical accuracy whenever it impeded them from enacting their predetermined agenda. These episodes of non-judicial behavior were also addressed in the Court’s dissenting opinions of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen and Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

The Justices’ failure to adhere to historic norms of judicial behavior, along with their refusal to abide by the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, has led to the precipitous decline in America’s trust in the Court. 

States Begin Plotting Their Own Judicial Path

As a consequence of this loss of trust, several states have prioritized their political and/or judicial rules over the US Supreme Court’s edicts. 

In 2021, Alabama created congressional voting districts that violated the Supreme Court’s Voting Rights Act and subsequently refused to comply with the Court’s ruling. 

In January 2024, Utah enacted the “Utah Constitutional Sovereignty Act”, which allows Utah’s officials to ignore Supreme Court rulings that contravene “the principles of state sovereignty.” 

In February 2024, Hawaiʻi‘s Supreme Court ruled that the Hawaiʻi Constitution takes precedence over the US Supreme Court’s ruling on the issue of gun licensure.

Also in early 2024, Texas prevented federal officials from performing their constitutionally mandated responsibilities along the US southern border and, in doing so, challenged “the power of the Supreme Court and ultimately the supremacy of the Constitution itself.”

Clearly, the rules governing our politico-judicial system have been irrevocably changed. If Massachusetts politicians want to successfully compete in today’s political arena, they must acknowledge this new politico-judicial reality. They can no longer continue to engage their political opponents using the proverbial knife when their opponent is using the proverbial gun.

A Plan to Protect the Commonwealth’s Health

Massachusetts, America’s leader in healthcare innovation, has always prioritized the health of our residents. Now, we have the opportunity to set a national example by prioritizing Massachusetts’ values over federal directives that will assuredly compromise the health and longevity of our residents.

As the precedent of selectively ignoring Supreme Court rulings has been established, Massachusetts should enact its version of Utah Constitutional Sovereignty Act, which I will refer to as the Massachusetts Constitutional Sovereignty Act. In part, it might read:

After approval by a two-thirds majority of the members in the Senate and House of Representatives, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will prohibit federal, state government officers and private citizens from enforcing or assisting in the enforcement of federal directives that:

        1. violate the principles of state sovereignty 
        2. interfere with the state’s rights or interests to provide for the health, safety, welfare, or education of its residents
        3. interfere with a person’s inviolable right to bodily autonomy 
        4. interfere with a person’s right to vote.

Once enacted, Governor Healey should tell the country that bump stock appliances are not legal in Massachusetts, regardless of the Supreme Court’s ruling, and Massachusetts will continue to aggressively protect the health of its residents. Hopefully, other states will follow our path.

If our politicians fail to enact this bold agenda, and continue accepting the status quo, the health of many Massachusetts residents will assuredly decline, and worse. 

By enacting the Massachusetts Constitutional Sovereignty Act, we will reaffirm our commitment to public health and lead the nation in neutering federal edicts that endanger the health of Americans.

Hayward Zwerling, M.D.

16 June 2024


Addendum: A variation of this essay was published in March 2024.

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