U.S. Supreme Court expands gun rights, strikes down New York law

WASHINGTON, June 23 (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled for the first time on Thursday that the U.S. Constitution protects an individual’s right to carry a handgun in public in self-defense, granting a historic victory to the United States. gun rights advocates in a country deeply divided over how to address gun violence.

The 6-3 decision, with the court’s conservative justices in the majority and liberal justices dissenting, overturned New York state limits on carrying concealed handguns outside the home. The court found that the law, enacted in 1913, violated a person’s right to “keep and bear arms” under the Second Amendment to the US Constitution.

The ruling, written by Judge Clarence Thomas, said the Constitution protects “an individual’s right to carry a handgun in self-defence outside of his or her home.”

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Thomas added: “We know of no other constitutional right which an individual can exercise only after demonstrating to government officials a special need.”

New York’s restriction is unconstitutional because it “prevents law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to own and bear arms,” ​​Thomas added.

Judges overturned a lower court ruling dismissing a challenge to the law by two gun owners and the New York branch of the National Rifle Association, an influential gun advocacy group closely aligned with the republicans.

The ruling represents the court’s most significant statement on gun rights in more than a decade. In 2008, the court first recognized an individual’s right to keep firearms in their home for self-defense in a District of Columbia case, and in 2010 it applied that right to the states.

The new ruling underscored how strongly the 6-3 conservative majority on the court favors a broad reading of Second Amendment rights.

Under New York law’s “just cause” requirement, applicants seeking an unrestricted concealed carry permit must convince a state firearms licensing officer of a need real, rather than speculative, self-defense. Officials could also grant licenses limited to certain activities, such as hunting or target shooting.

The decision could lead to many more people obtaining licenses to carry concealed handguns in the state, undermine similar restrictions in other states, and jeopardize other types of state and local restrictions on firearms. fire nationwide by forcing judges to scrutinize them with a more skeptical eye under the Constitution. .

The ruling said New York’s concealed firearms regime is at odds with the text and history of the Second Amendment and how gun rights have been protected throughout the states’ history. -United.

“Ghosts” assembled from components purchased online. They also feared such a move would undermine gun bans in sensitive locations such as airports, courthouses, hospitals and schools.

The US Senate is set to vote later Thursday to advance a bipartisan gun control bill that supporters hope will help curb mass shootings in what could become the first new federal law. on firearms for decades.

Eight states, including New York, allow authorities to decide whether people can carry concealed handguns in public even if they meet criteria such as criminal background checks.

Gun rights, dear to many Americans and promised by the country’s 18th-century founders, are a contentious issue in a country with high levels of gun violence, including many mass shootings. President Joe Biden’s administration has backed New York in this matter.

The United States has seen hundreds of deaths in dozens of mass shootings in recent years. In the past few weeks alone, 19 children and two teachers were killed on May 24 at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and 10 people were killed on May 14 at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York.

Biden advocated for new restrictions on guns and called gun violence a “national embarrassment.”

In a concurring opinion, Judge Samuel Alito downplayed the ruling, saying the court said nothing about who can legally own a gun or what requirements must be met to purchase a gun. It also doesn’t decide anything about the types of weapons people can own. »

Alito disputed that gun regulations like New York’s would deter mass shootings, citing the recent Buffalo Massacre.

“The New York law at issue in this case obviously did not stop this author,” Alito wrote.

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Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Lawrence Hurley

Thomson Reuters

Washington-based journalist covering legal cases with a focus on the United States Supreme Court, Pulitzer Prize winner for a team project on how the qualified immunity defense protects police officers accused of excessive force.

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