In its most significant gun ruling in more than a decade, the US Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a New York gun law that gave government officials broad discretion to limit who can carry a loaded gun in public. — a clear warning shot for California and many other states that severely restrict concealed carry permits.
Gun rights advocates hailed the ruling as a major victory, while advocates of stricter gun laws and Democratic leaders in California bolstered efforts to reduce gun violence after the deadly mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, New York last year. I destroyed the decision as a blow. month.
The 6-3 decision found New York’s requirement that gun owners demonstrate a specific requirement to qualify for a permit to carry a loaded gun in public that infringes on their gun rights. About half of California’s counties—including the Bay Area—have similar policies.
“Today’s ruling will result in more people being harmed by guns,” Eric Tirschwell, chief litigation attorney for Everytown Law, who supports stricter gun laws, said of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. , New York State Superintendent of Police.
But Brandon Combs, president of the Sacramento-based Firearms Policy Coalition, called it “a major victory for the people and liberties designed to defend our Constitution,” which would have implications beyond the question of publicly carrying guns.
The ruling comes just as Congress prepares to pass the most important bipartisan gun law in decades that would include funding to try and enforce California-like “red flag” laws that allow officials to temporarily disarm troubled people. who has not yet committed any offence.
Governor Gavin Newsom, who is urging new gun laws in a state that already has some of the most restrictive firearms rules in the country, called Thursday’s decision “shameful” and said it would “protect our citizens”. Violates the rights of the states for “being gunned down in our streets, schools and churches.”
Still, the decision would not allow anyone to carry a loaded gun anywhere in public.
In California, it is generally prohibited to carry a loaded firearm openly or concealed in most public places unless a person has been issued a license from local law enforcement. Those permits are issued by a sheriff or police chief after a successful background check, completion of a firearms safety course, and proof of residence, employment or occupation in that city or county.
“States still have the authority to limit concealed carry permits to people who can safely have firearms,” state Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement.
But they will no longer require applicants to show a reason for needing a gun for safety. Bonta said the state would quickly seek new legislation, where it would be clarified that concealed carry firearms are prohibited, and the qualifications required to obtain a permit.
Donovan McHorter, 33, of Alameda, welcomed the court’s decision with open arms as he picked up his second firearm – the Smith & Wesson SD40 handgun. He takes a job in San Francisco starting at midnight, and he fears too many people are carrying guns illegally.
“The feeling of owning a gun, it’s different,” McHorter said. “You have the confidence to talk to anyone.”
But Hamza Hauter, 26, of the Castro Valley, called the decision “ridiculous”. Standing outside a Safeway store in Castro Valley, he feared that mundane tasks like shopping for groceries might become more dangerous now.
“It’s just going to be a scary situation,” Hauter said. “You don’t know if the person has bad intentions.”
The Supreme Court case came to the fore after two New Yorkers challenged their state’s gun licensing regime, which requires owners to demonstrate that there exists a “reasonable reason” for them to carry a loaded gun in public. Is”. State officials rejected his request, considering his willingness to carry his guns for self-defense as insufficient.
The Rifle and Pistol Association argued on behalf of the men that law-abiding citizens should be allowed to arm themselves outside the home without proving the need to do so.
In the majority opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Connie Barrett, held that state law outlawed the Constitution’s Second Amendment right to bear arms. Is.
The court, in a 2008 case on the Washington, D.C., handgun ban, held that people have an individual right to arm themselves for traditional purposes such as self-defense at home, but left unanswered whether the state had those rights outside a private home. How much can restrict or trade.
In Thursday’s ruling, the court said that “the right to confine weapons to the home would eliminate half of the operative protections of the Second Amendment.” The court held that citizens were not required to show a special need for their other constitutional rights, and New York’s justified cause requirement was “to allow law-abiding citizens with a general self-defense need to keep and maintain arms in public”. prohibits the exercise of the right.
But the court noted the long-standing legality of banning firearms in sensitive public places such as schools and government buildings, legislatures, polling places and courthouses. Although the judges declined to “broadly define” what other places could be included, they said New York ran by defining them “too broadly”, thus “effectively defining the Second Amendment”. Cities will get exemption from this.”
“I don’t think there’s any concern on our part that somehow schools are back in play where a state or local government can’t ban guns,” Tirschwell said.
UC-Los Angeles law professor Eugene Volokh, an expert in constitutional law and gun regulations, said the ruling effectively aligns California’s law with most other states that say officials will “issue” civilians to the public. Allows the carrying of weapons in a form not otherwise legally prohibited. Sheriffs in several California counties already issue permits in effectively the same way.
Gun rights advocates said other language on how courts should evaluate Second Amendment cases would add to their challenges to California’s other gun laws.
“We see this as a victory,” said Owen Carlson, manager of Elite Armory, a gun shop in Castro Valley.
Still, nothing is going to change overnight. The New York case will be sent back to the lower courts. And any changes to California law are likely to come after the state’s laws are challenged in court.
“All the lawsuits already in the pipeline regarding magazines, assault weapons, waiting periods, ammunition laws – all those laws will be challenged and I am quite confident that they will not meet that standard and will be reversed. ,” said Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California.
Staff writer Robert Salonga contributed.