Home » Justice Sotomayor calls out every conservative in gun case dissent

Justice Sotomayor calls out every conservative in gun case dissent

When a gunman opened fire at a country music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Oct. 1, 2017, he killed 58 people and injured more than 800 in what was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Twelve of the 23 guns in his arsenal had bump stocks, devices that allow semiautomatic firearms to fire continuously after just one trigger pull. He fired more than 1,100 rounds of ammunition in just 10 minutes—a slaughter so horrific that the Trump administration responded with regulations banning bump stocks. 

The six conservative Supreme Court justices who struck down that ban Friday are apparently immune to that horror. 

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority with a lengthy and creepy explanation—with diagrams—on guns and trigger mechanisms to justify overturning the ban. He explained that it couldn’t stand on the basis of semantics and what Congress meant when it defined machine guns, abandoning the supposed “textualist” conservative principle that the courts should respect the ordinary meaning of words in the law. 

Justice Sonia Sotomayor called bullshit on the majority in her dissent for ignoring the “human act of the shooter’s initial pull” in an “interpretation [that] requires six diagrams and an animation to decipher the meaning of the statutory text.” She called out each of the six conservatives for abandoning their textualist principles.

“Every Member of the majority has previously emphasized that the best way to respect congressional intent is to adhere to the ordinary understanding of the terms Congress uses,” Sotomayor wrote. 

She then provided quotes from each of them:

  • Chief Justice Roberts: “[T]he legislative purpose is expressed by the ordinary meaning of the words used.”

  • Justice Thomas: “Statutory construction must begin with the language employed by Congress and the assumption that the ordinary meaning of that language accurately expresses the legislative purpose.”

  • Justice Alito: “We give the words of a statute their ordinary, contemporary, common meaning, absent an indication Congress intended them to bear some different import.”

  • Justice Gorsuch: “When called on to interpret a statute, this Court generally seeks to discern and apply the ordinary meaning of its terms at the time of their adoption.”

  • Justice Kavanaugh: Departing from “all indications of ordinary meaning” will “create regulatory uncertainty for the Federal Government … and regulated parties.”

  • Justice Barrett: declines to “artificially narrow ordinary meaning” to “second-guess [Congress’] judgment.”

“The majority’s reading flies in the face of this Court’s standard tools of statutory interpretation,” she wrote. “Today, the majority forgets that principle and substitutes its own view of what constitutes a ‘machine gun’ for Congress’.”

In doing so, the court just carved out a bump stock loophole from the plain text that will worsen the next mass shootings.


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5th Circuit court shoots down rule banning ‘bump stocks’ that allow rifles to fire much faster

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