Justice Stephen Breyer invoked the nation’s latest gun violence massacres, including those in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York, in his dissent against the Supreme Court’s ruling to expand the Second Amendment on Thursday.
The 6-3 ruling struck down a New York state gun law that regulates the right to concealed carry, making this the most significant case regarding the Second Amendment since a 2010 decision to dismantle a nearly 30-year ban on handgun ownership in Chicago.
The decision comes as the country grapples with daily gun violence across the nation, and as investigations into the massacres at Uvalde and Buffalo are still underway.
In his dissent, Breyer noted the recent series of shootings.
“Since the start of this year alone (2022), there have already been 277 reported mass shootings—an average of more than one per day,” Breyer wrote.
Breyer argued that the court's decision was made based on pleadings, rather than with “the benefit of discovery or an evidentiary record.”
As such, Breyer’s dissent includes a thorough recognition of instances of firearm violence within recent years.
Breyer added that this ruling “concerns the extent to which the Second Amendment prevents democratically elected officials from enacting laws to address the serious problem of gun violence…And yet the Court today purports to answer that question without discussing the nature or severity of that problem.”
Breyer wrote that the primary difference between his opinion and that of the court majority is that he believes the Second Amendment allows states to address the issues that are caused by gun violence. Therefore, Breyer believes the ruling will take away the state’s ability to do so.
“Many states have tried to address some of the dangers of gun violence just described by passing laws that limit, in various ways, who may purchase, carry, or use firearms of different kinds. The Court today severely burdens States’ efforts to do so,” Breyer wrote.
The opinion in Thursday's case was authored by Justice Clarence Thomas for the conservative majority with the three liberal justices dissenting.
Thomas wrote that the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect an individual's right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.
President Joe Biden also addressed the link between court's decision and the recent atrocities at Uvalde and Buffalo.
"In the wake of the horrific attacks in Buffalo and Uvalde, as well as the daily acts of gun violence that do not make national headlines, we must do more as a society -- not less -- to protect our fellow Americans," he said in a statement. "I urge states to continue to enact and enforce commonsense laws to make their citizens and communities safer from gun violence.”
Just a month before the court’s ruling, 19 students and 2 teachers were murdered at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. The shooter legally purchased an AR-15 just days before committing the massacre.
Over a week before the shooting in Uvalde, a shooter killed 10 people, all of whom were Black, at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York. The shooter had also obtained an AR-15 while following state laws.