Even in a Straw Man Argument, It’s All about Context

Opinion: Abramski v. U.S., No. 12-1493

“Between the clout of gun rights lobbies and politicians too scared to face them, the courts could be the voice of sanity in all of this.” – Gun Control Advocate

“HA! Yeah, good luck with that.” – The Post Turtle   



If someone from Virginia wanted to buy a gun with the intention of giving to his uncle in Pennsylvania, who isn’t allowed to own firearms, most of us would assume that this would be against the law. But we live in the United States where the Second Amendment exists, so there will be a rather lengthy discussion about this by nine individuals wearing black robes.


How quaint.


In a 5-4 split decision, a divided Supreme Court sided with gun control advocates and the Obama Administration in that the federal government can enforce laws that can ban “straw man purchasing” for buying guns for someone else. Writing the majority opinion, Justice Kagan reiterated that having background checks and record keeping requirements would mean little if it were legal for someone to buy a gun and give it to them. In dissent, Justice Scalia stated that the individual giving the gun is not participating in any crime, thus not breaking the law, which is restating that timeless classic “guns don’t kill people, people do.”


Dave Gross, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, talked about that opinion stating, “this is a very big and very positive decision that will save lives by keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people.” He wasn’t along on the sentiment.


A friend of mine who works for a group supporting gun control – I’m keeping the organization and individual vague because I don’t want to get them in trouble – sent me an email yesterday about the latest Supreme Court decision. They were, of all things, wondering out loud if the Supreme Court could be the voice of reason in the face of gun rights lobbyists and politicians that fear losing elections due to going against the National Rifle Association (NRA).


It’s an interesting statement at the very least. But using the courts can also be very tricky when trying to push an agenda. Take the final exchange by Justices Scalia and Kagan.


After the majority reading Scalia scoffed at the opinion by using the analogy, “If I give my son $10 and tell him to pick up milk and eggs at the store, no English speaker would say that the store sells' the milk and eggs to me.” Kagan then countered with her own analogy saying, “If I send my brother to the Apple Store with money and instructions to purchase an iPhone, and then take immediate and sole possession of that device, am I theperson’ (or `transferee’) who has bought the phone or is he?”


That’s the funny thing about the Supreme Court. Even in simple analogies, it’s all about context.



Justices that Supported the Decision: Kennedy, Ginsberg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan


Justices that Dissented: Thomas, Roberts, Scalia, and Alito


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