Jun 24, 2022 - Podcasts

A Supreme Court ruling expands gun rights

The Supreme Court yesterday struck down a more than a century-old New York state gun law. The court said that the law, which limits who can carry guns outside the home, conflicts with the second amendment – and the ruling stands to significantly change the legal landscape of gun rights in the U.S.

  • Plus: devastation following an earthquake in Afghanistan.
  • And: a call for solidarity from Asian Americans.
  • Also: why so many January 6th witnesses mention their faith

Guests: Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center and Jose Antonio Vargas, co-founder of Define American.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Lydia McMullen-Laird and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA BOODHOO: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today! It’s Friday June 24. I’m Niala Boodhoo. Here’s what we’re covering today: devastation in Afghanistan. Plus, a call for solidarity from Asian Americans. But first, today’s One Big Thing: a Supreme Court ruling expands gun rights.

NEW YORK GOVERNOR KATHY HOCHUL: Shocking, absolutely shocking.

NIALA: That was the reaction of New York governor Kathy Hochul when the Supreme Court yesterday struck down a more than century-old New York State gun law. The court said the law, which limits who can carry guns outside the home, conflicts with the second amendment. And the ruling stands to significantly expand gun rights in the US.

Jeffrey Rosen is president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, a nonprofit focused on education about the constitution, and he's here with more. Hi Jeffrey.

JEFFREY ROSEN: Hi. Good to be here.

NIALA: Jeffrey, why does the current New York law conflict with the second amendment? At least according to the six conservative members who voted to strike it down?

JEFFREY: According to the Supreme Court, the New York law is an outlier inconsistent with the history and tradition of gun regulations. Basically the court said that only six states have a system like New York, where you have to show a good reason for carrying a gun. And it embraced a view that Justice Thomas has long held, but didn't seem to have a majority until now, which is that the second amendment is not a second class, right as Justice Thomas said. And by basically insisting that you have to look to history to figure out whether a regulation is okay, the court has signaled a real willingness to, to take a hard look at gun regulations that many folks have thought were constitutionally unproblematic.

NIALA: What do we hear from the dissenting judges on this?

JEFFREY: Well, this is one of Justice Breyer's most blistering dissents. And he both suggested in his final words that this would make the country more dangerous. But he also said that until now in second amendment cases, like first amendment cases, the court has balanced the urgent interest in public safety against the individual interest in self defense. Here, Justice Thomas threw all that out the window and he said, it's just up to judges to look at the historical record on their own and tried to decide whether weapons that, of course the framers couldn't have imagined cuz they didn't exist back 200 years ago are, or not consistent with tradition. So it just, it, I, I think it's not too much to say that this changes the legal landscape. It was not obvious that there was a majority on the court to adopt such a robust vision of the second amendment and now all sorts of regulations, both those that are currently on the books and ones that might be adopted in the future are open to constitutional challenge.

NIALA: Jeffrey Rosen is the president and CEO of the National Constitution Center. Thanks Jeffrey.

JEFFREY: Thank you.

NIALA: Another story we’re watching this morning: Residents of Southeast Afghanistan are taking stock of the devastation from Wednesday’s magnitude 6.1 earthquake – which estimates say has killed more than a thousand people. Many more are thought to be injured. Minimal resources along with rough weather and terrain have made rescue and recovery efforts difficult, but already thousands of people are facing the loss of loved ones, homes, and even entire villages. The Associated Press reported yesterday that some people were digging through the rubble by hand - while others were preparing mass graves. Afghanistan was already dealing with a number of other crises, including hunger – one UN-backed report said about half the country was facing acute hunger as of early May.

In a moment, a solidarity march on the national mall – led by Asian American community members.

[ad break]

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo. 15,000 people are expected in Washington, D.C. tomorrow for a solidarity march led by the Asian American community. As we continue to see increased violence against Asian Americans, organizers of the first national Unity March say their goal is to demand progress towards achieving equity across marginalized groups in the U.S. One of the speakers for the event is Jose Antonio Vargas. The founder of Define American and he's with me now. Hey Jose.

JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS: Hi, nice to be with you.

NIALA: What are the other calls to action for this Unity March? What are the specific goals you're hoping to achieve with this gathering?

JOSE: One of the goals is to actually get people to talk about a pathway to citizenship for undocumented Asians and Pacific Islanders, to have a conversation about racial and economic justice. We get treated so much as a monolith and yet the community is so diverse and the gap between higher income to lower income, the lowest income is actually the widest gap of any racial group in the country. So that's a big one. And to me, cultural equity and media representation. When you ask people about the most popular Asian Americans, the answer is Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, at a time when Kamala Harris, right, is the first, not only the first Black American, but the first Asian American, right. She's South Asian. So, the erasure, the kind of marginalization that we even get at that level is something that we all have to push back against.

NIALA: Unfortunately, the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes has also given - I've seen reports where this feeds into existing stereotypes that exist between marginalized groups. How do we keep that conversation open and inclusive, especially when we're thinking about the Asian American community?

JOSE: I think making sure that we call it out whenever we see it. I know within my own family, sometimes the media plays up, you know, for example, when Asian American elders are getting attacked, it's Black suspects, right? And you have to remind people, no, that's actually, you are, you are picking certain parts and actually not looking at the big picture. It's sad in a way that it takes violence to unite this community, but in a way I'm thankful that against all of this, we have found a way to actually come together as a community, as a group of people.

NIALA: So if in a year's time, you and I were to sit down to talk again on the 12th anniversary of your coming out as undocumented,

JOSE: Oh gosh.

NIALA: What, what change would you like to have seen happen in the next year?

JOSE: Well, I'm not gonna lie to you. I am, I'm not sure we're gonna see much change policy-wise, for example, on immigration reform. I think we are now at the mercy of a paralyzed Congress. I also think when I look at the arc of LGBTQ rights, I'm reminded that so much of that change happens state by state. It's not perfect, but cultural change in the LGBTQ movement preceded policy and political change. So that is what we're working towards and that's the kind of change that I think we can actually work on and actually see have some movement.

NIALA: Jose Antonio Vargas is the founder of Define American and the author of “Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen.” Thanks for being with us, Jose.

JOSE: Thank you so much for having me.

NIALA: Yesterday was the sixth day of public hearings this month by the House January 6th committee. One headline from the hearing: Six House Republicans sought pardons after the attack on the Capitol including Representatives Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene. On Fridays we like to sum up the week’s political news. That’s why today I wanted to end this week with something that struck me as we’ve been covering the hearings. It’s a theme we’ve heard from a number of Republicans who have testified: how their religious beliefs – specifically their Christian faith – played a role in their refusal to subvert the 2020 election result.

Vice President Mike Pence’s lawyer, Greg Jacob, shared this moment from when he and Pence were in a Congressional bunker, and Jacob pulled out his Bible and read the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den.

GREG JACOB: My faith really sustained me through it. I, down in the secure location, pulled out my Bible, read through it, and just took great comfort.

NIALA: And Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers told the committee about his reaction to pressure from Trump’s team to remove Biden electors from his state:

RUSTY BOWERS: It is a tenet of my faith, that the constitution is divinely inspired of my most basic foundational beliefs. And so for me to do that, because somebody just asked me to is foreign to my very being, I, I, I will not do it.

NIALA: To me, it’s a reminder that for many of the people involved in the events of January 6th, this was much deeper than politics. It was a crisis that forced them to go to the core of their identity and what they believe, to decide how they would respond.

The next round of hearings for the committee will resume in a few weeks.

And that’s all for us this week –

Axios Today is produced by Nuria Marquez Martinez and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Our sound engineers are Alex Sugiura and Ben O’Brien. Alexandra Botti is our Supervising Producer. Sara Kehaulani Goo is Axios’ Editor In Chief.

I’m Niala Boodhoo, thanks for listening! I’m out next week on vacation - but Erica Pandey will be here filling in for me. Stay safe and I’ll see you soon!

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