Supreme Court strikes down concealed handgun law in New York

Supreme Court on Thursday New York gun law struck down enacted more than a century ago that bans carrying a concealed handgun outside the home—an idea marking the widest expansion of gun rights in a decade.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the court’s 6-3 majority, “Since the state of New York issues a public-license only when an applicant demonstrates a special need for self-defense, we conclude that the state’s licensing regime is in violation of the Constitution.” does.”

The opinion changes the framework that lower courts will use going forward as they analyze other gun restrictions, which may include proposals currently before Congress if they eventually become law.

CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor Steve Vladeck said, “The expansion of the majority of the Second Amendment’s defense will have a far more significant impact than publicly carrying firearms — from age restrictions to arms embargoes to high-capacity magazines. to be limited to.” University of Texas School of Law.

“In light of the analysis of today’s decision, we are in a new round of litigation challenging any gun-control measure,” Vladeck said.

Critics say the decision will stifle sensible solutions they think can curb gun violence.

Only a half-dozen states have similar laws to New York — California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey — have similar rules, but those states include some of the most densely populated cities in the country.

Twenty-five states generally allow people to carry a concealed weapon in most public places without a permit, background check, or security training. Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence,

In his opinion, Thomas stated that going forward the government “cannot simply assume that regulation promotes and is of vital interest”, instead stating that judges should look to the text and history when deciding whether a law is mandatory. Is.

“Only if a firearm regulation is consistent with the historical tradition of this nation, can the court conclude that the individual’s conduct falls outside the Second Amendment’s unqualified order,” Thomas said.

Dissent cites recent mass shootings

In a disagreement joined by other liberals, Justice Stephen Breyer took note of gun violence and said the court listed several recent shootings, including the massacre at a Buffalo grocery store earlier this year. Thursday’s decision “puts a heavy burden on states’ efforts” to curb gun violence, Breuer wrote.

“The primary difference between the court’s approach and mine is that I believe the amendment allows states to focus on the serious problems arising out of gun violence, which I just described,” Breuer wrote. “I fear that the court’s interpretation ignores these important threats and leaves states without the ability to address them.”

Justice Samuel Alito, in a concurring opinion, pushed back: “And how does the disagreement account for the fact that the mass shooting near the top of its list took place in Buffalo? The disputed New York law in this case clearly stated that Did not stop the criminal.”

Conservative judges also dismissed concerns from defenders of New York’s gun law about how the law prohibited firearms from being carried in sensitive locations.

“It is true that people sometimes congregate in ‘sensitive places,’ and it is also true that law enforcement professionals are usually available in those places. But all places of public gathering are classified as ‘sensitive places’. Expanding those that are not separate from law enforcement defines the category of ‘sensitive locations’ too broadly,” Thomas wrote.

First major decision on guns in a decade

Since handing over two major Second Amendment cases in 2008 and 2010, the court has largely dodged the issue, but Justice Amy agreed to raise the dispute after the arrival of Connie Barrett, her influence on the new conservative court. exposed.

In the 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller, the court held for the first time that the Second Amendment protects a person’s right to own and keep a weapon at home for self-defense. Except for a follow-up decision two years later, Justice largely stayed away from an issue plaguing gun rights advocates and even some judges himself.

Thomas and other conservatives have made it clear that they believe lower courts are pouting their nose at Heller’s decision while upholding the sanctions. “The Second Amendment is an adversarial authority in this court,” Thomas has said before.

The case, New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, pertains to a New York law governing the license to carry concealed handguns in public for self-defense. It required a resident to obtain a license to carry a concealed carry pistol or revolver and to demonstrate that a “reasonable reason” for the permit existed. Residents must demonstrate that they are in great need of a license and face a “special or unique threat to their lives”.

The law requires applicants who wish to carry a handgun in public to show a “real and obvious” need for self-defense without restriction, as opposed to “speculative or conspicuous”.

A panel of judges from the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals held that New York’s law did not violate the Second Amendment.

The Biden administration backed New York and briefly told the Supreme Court that while the Second Amendment protects a person’s right to keep and bear arms, the right is “not absolute.”

Acting Solicitor General Brian Fletcher told the judges that the law was “strongly in place” in the country’s history.

The petitioners in the case were Robert Nash, Brandon Koch and the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association – an NRA ally. He was represented by George W. Bush-era Solicitor General Paul Clement, who argued that the Second Amendment not only ensured the right to “keep arms,” ​​but also the right to bear them.

Nash and Koch had passed required background checks and were licensed to carry guns for hunting and target practice, but they were not able to establish a special requirement for self-defense that required obtaining an unrestricted license. required under the law.

Clement argued that the law makes it nearly impossible for an ordinary person to obtain a license because the “reasonable cause” standard is too demanding and left to the “broad discretion” of the licensing officer.

“Good, even impeccable, moral character and a simple desire to exercise a fundamental right,” said Clement, “is not enough.” “Neither is living or employed in a high crime area.”

For example, Nash requested to carry a handgun for self-defense after several robberies in his neighborhood. But he was refused because he had not demonstrated a special need for self-defense. The coach wanted a similar license, and he was able to cite his experience attending safety training courses. He too was refused.

This story is breaking and will be updated.

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