Judiciary

Stricter Gun Laws Mean Lower Suicide Rates

New York Times: “A new study has found that four gun laws are significantly associated with lower rates of firearm suicide … The study is in The American Journal of Public Health.”

“After controlling for population density, race and ethnicity, education, poverty and age, they found that each of the four laws was associated with a lower rate of suicide by gun as well as a lower overall rate of suicide.”

“In 11 states with waiting periods, the longer the waiting period, the lower the gun suicide rate. Compared with states without the laws, background checks were associated with a 53 percent lower gun suicide rate, gun locks with a 68 percent lower rate, and restrictions on open carrying a 42 percent lower rate.”

Only 5 States Limit Police Seizure of Personal Property

Vox: “Only five states prevent police from taking and keeping your stuff without charging you for a crime: Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, and North Carolina.”

“The rest fully allow what’s known as ‘civil forfeiture’: Police officers can seize someone’s property without proving the person was guilty of a crime; they just need probable cause to believe the assets are being used as part of criminal activity, typically drug trafficking. Police can then absorb the value of this property — be it cash, cars, guns, or something else — as profit, either through state programs or under a federal program known as Equitable Sharing that lets local and state police get up to 80 percent of the value of what they seize as money for their departments.”

civil forfeiture map

“Critics have long argued that civil forfeiture allows law enforcement to essentially police for profit, since many of the proceeds from seizures can go back to police departments.”

Despite Wins, Supreme Court is not a Liberal Court

Nina Totenberg of NPR observes that “though the court is dominated by conservative justices — the liberal minority, disciplined and united, drove the direction in a startling number of cases, while the conservatives splintered into multiple factions.”

“The liberals won in 19 of the 26 closely-divided ideological cases and eight out of 10 of the most important ones … Even taking the most centrist of the conservatives, Justice Anthony Kennedy, out of the equation, one or more members of the conservative bloc crossed over to join the liberals in 14 of the most ideological cases, while the reverse was true for the liberals only three times.”

One reason: “The liberals are, for the most part, just trying to preserve the status quo.”

Other reasons: “conservative activists just pushed their agenda too far [and] that the five conservative justices on the court have very different legal philosophies, and the cases this term showed those splits in vivid color.”

The New York Times Editorial Board adds:  If the court’s decisions “reflect any particular trend, it is not a growing liberalism, but rather the failure of hard-line conservative activists trying to win in court what they have failed to achieve through legislation.”

Overwhelming Majority Approve of Court’s Ruling on Obamacare Subsidies

Kaiser Family Foundation: “When told that the Supreme Court decided to keep the health care law as it is so that low and moderate income people in all states can be eligible for government financial help to buy health insurance, just over 6 in 10 (62 percent) say they approve of the Court’s decision and about a third (32 percent) say they disapprove. Approval is higher in this case than it was following the 2012 Supreme Court decision upholding most major provisions of the ACA. In the June 2012 Kaiser Health Tracking poll, the public was more evenly split, with 47 percent approving and 43 percent disapproving of the Court’s decision in the earlier case.”

Figure 4

“Despite the majority’s favorable opinion of the King v. Burwell decision, though, the new poll finds the public’s view of the ACA remains largely unchanged immediately after the June 25 ruling, with 43 percent viewing it favorably and 40 percent unfavorably.”

The Limited Impact of the Court’s Ruling on Gerrymandering

Washington Post:  “Our partisan Congress is a relatively new thing. In the 1970s, there were a significant number of Democrats and Republicans crossing over. But it’s slowly faded, to today, where it doesn’t happen much at all. Here’s that divide illustrated by Pew, with the House on the right.”

“So what if states suddenly adopted redistricting commissions en masse and we got state legislators out of the map-drawing business for good? There would almost definitely be more competitive districts, but perhaps not a ton more. The United States is a country very polarized between rural and urban, after all, and map-drawers’ goal is not to create competitive districts, but rather to create compact ones that bring together similar groups of people. In most areas areas of the country, there is simply no prospect of creating new, competitive districts.”

“So while the Supreme Court’s redistricting decision will be hailed as a sign of progress by good-government types, it’s important to note how limited its effect might be on the coming Congresses — to say nothing of how many states will actually join the few who have already adopted such commissions.”

All is Not Lost for Obamacare Lawsuit Supporters

Jonathan Cohn: “The activists, attorneys, and partisans who conceived of and then brought the King lawsuit to court still managed to achieve something. By pushing the case as far through the legal process as they did, and sending the political world into a tizzy over it, they were able to freeze the political debate in place — to maintain the fevered, highly polarized argument over whether the health care program should even exist.”

“That’s worked out pretty well for Republicans, because it’s meant they can keep using Obamacare to rally their activist supporters. It’s worked out poorly for Democrats, because it’s meant they can’t get serious about fixing the law’s very real shortcomings.”

“It’s impossible to know how the arguments about King v. Burwell affected perceptions of the Affordable Care Act. But the case certainly inflamed partisan hatred of the law, giving Republican leaders new opportunities to attack it and the president’s management of health care reform.”

“But Democrats and Republicans could probably find ways to at least make deals, with benefits for each side, if only they could have a constructive conversation about piecemeal changes to the law. The ruling in King v. Burwell makes it possible to imagine such a conversation taking place, even if it’s still a long way off.”

Has the Supreme Court Become More Liberal?

Ezra Klein asks: Is the Supreme Court “getting more liberal or are the cases getting more conservative?”

“The Obamacare ruling is a good example. One way to read the outcome of that case is that the Court sided with liberals, and that’s evidence of a more liberal term. But another way to read that case is that it only made it to the Supreme Court because the Court has become so conservative — any other Court wouldn’t have bothered, and so the proper interpretation is that King v. Burwell is evidence of the Court’s conservatism.”

“But there’s another thing all these measurements miss: the importance of various rulings. The same-sex marriage ruling is a liberal ruling of enormous, even historic, magnitude. The scores will count it as one case, equal to any other case, but it isn’t — and its presence alone will ensure that liberals long remember this Court.”

Does the SCOTUS Redistricting Verdict Really Help Democrats?

Nate Cohn: “When the Supreme Court ruled Monday to allow independent redistricting commissions in Arizona, the decision was greeted with enthusiasm from liberals who support redistricting reform.”

“But if the court had ruled the other way, it … might have even helped put Democrats in position to gain additional seats.”

“Most of the districts drawn by independent commissions are in Democratic-leaning states, where Democrats would be likelier than Republicans to take control of the redistricting process … For the Supreme Court’s decision to ultimately help Democrats, redistricting commissions will need to spread to states where Republicans currently control the redistricting process. Independent commissions in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina would almost certainly yield additional seats for Democrats.”

“But so far, there have been no major moves toward establishing independent commissions in the states where Republicans control the redistricting process.”

“Absent explicit criteria to the contrary — like a requirement to create partisan balance — independent commissions could easily adopt relatively favorable maps for incumbents in the very states where Democrats are hoping to unseat incumbent Republicans.”