Handcuff Our Rogue Supreme Court

A bump stock-modified rifle is a post-purchase modification to a single shot rifle that enables it to fire 400–800 bullets per minute. They were used to murder 60 people and injure 413 in the 2017 Las Vegas massacre.

The federal government classifies bump stock-modified rifles as “automatic weapons”, thus allowing states to restrict their sale.

On February 28, the Supreme Court heard arguments that a bump stock-modified rifle should not be classified as an “automatic weapon”. This change would allow anyone to convert their single shot rifle into a weapon of mass destruction–we know what will happen next. 

I am not optimistic the Court will do the right thing.

As a physician, I am appalled that the Court repeatedly issues pro-gun, anti-environmental, and anti-public health edicts that, objectively, will increase the number of American deaths and disregard the public health ramifications of their rulings. 

Many of the Republican appointed justices have also ignored judicial precedent and historical accuracy, whenever it impeded them from enacting their predetermined judicial outcome, as demonstrated in the Court’s dissenting opinions of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen and Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

Maybe this aberrant Court behavior is the reason that the Court’s disapproval rating has reached 60%, and now threatens the Court’s legitimacy, an issue addressed by Justices Alito and Roberts.

The Court’s low public approval rating has emboldened some state politicians and state judges to selectively ignore Court rulings.

In 2021 the state of 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.

As of this writing, Texas continues to defy the Supreme Court by preventing federal officials from controlling the southern border.

The Massachusetts legislature must proactively defend its residents against these unhealthy Court rulings by putting the US Supreme Court on notice that the status quo is unacceptable.

As the precedent of ignoring selective Supreme Court rulings has already been established, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts should enact The Massachusetts Constitutional Sovereignty Act. Modeled on the Utah Constitutional Sovereignty Act, it would 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.

With this legislation on the books, the Supreme Court would understand that future health-blind rulings would:

  1. be ignored by Massachusetts
  2. engender additional distrust of the Court
  3. potentially precipitate a Constitutional crises and
  4. might render the Court irrelevant to American jurisprudence.

And if we expeditiously enact this proposal, maybe the Court will rule that bump stock-modified rifles are functionally and legally equivalent to “automatic weapons”—and thus save many American lives.

Regardless of this proposal’s impact on this particular court case, the proposal would put the Court on notice that Massachusetts, like several other states, will follow a judicial path which is consistent with our values of prioritizing the health of our residents.

The rules of America’s politico-judicial system have changed, as so many politicians, judges, and justices have forsaken their adherence to our historic norms of political and judicial behavior. 

If Massachusetts continues to play by the now defunct politico-judicial rules, we should expect to see many unnecessary American deaths.

Hayward Zwerling, M.D.

6 March 2024


Addendum: 4/29/2024

The conservative federal judges go rogue: New York Times

Addendum: I had previously discussed this topic in my essays:

Our Illegitimate, Illogical, and UnAmerican Supreme Court

Our Rogue Supreme Court

Governors Must Prioritize Health Above the Supreme Court’s Unhealthful Edicts

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