“Because New York State only issues public transportation licenses when an applicant demonstrates a particular need for self-defense, we conclude that the state’s licensing regime violates the Constitution,” Judge Clarence wrote. Thomas for the 6-3 majority of the court.
The opinion changes the framework that lower courts will use in the future when analyzing other gun restrictions, which could include proposals currently before Congress if they eventually become law.
“Expanding much of what the Second Amendment protects will have monumental ramifications far beyond carrying guns in public — on everything from age restrictions to assault weapon bans to by the limitations of high-capacity magazines,” said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law.
“We are in for a whole new round of litigation challenging all gun control measures in light of the analysis in today’s decision,” Vladeck said.
Critics say the ruling will undermine common-sense solutions they say can curb gun violence.
Only about half a dozen states have laws similar to New York’s – California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey have similar regulations, but these states include some of the most densely populated cities in the country.
In his opinion, Thomas said that in the future the government “could not simply assume that the settlement promotes an important interest”, rather he said that the judges must look at the text and the history to decide whether a law is accepted or not.
“Only if a gun regulation is consistent with the historical tradition of this nation can a court find that the individual’s conduct is not within the absolute command of the Second Amendment,” Thomas said. .
“We also agree, and now argue, consistent with Heller and McDonald, that the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.”
President Joe Biden, who is working with Congress on gun control legislation, said he was “deeply disappointed” with the decision.
“This decision contradicts both common sense and the Constitution, and should trouble us all deeply,” Biden said in a statement.
“In the wake of the horrific attacks in Buffalo and Uvalde, as well as daily acts of gun violence that don’t make national headlines, we must do more as a society – not less – to protect our fellow Americans.
Dissidents cite recent mass shootings
In a dissent joined by fellow Liberals, Judge Stephen Breyer noted the upsurge in gun violence and told the court, listing several recent shootings, including the Buffalo grocery store massacre earlier this year. Thursday’s decision “seriously constrains states’ efforts” to address gun violence, Breyer wrote.
“The main difference between the court’s view and mine is that I believe the amendment allows states to address the serious issues of gun violence that I have just described,” Breyer wrote. “I fear that the Court’s interpretation ignores these significant dangers and leaves states without the capacity to deal with them.”
Judge Samuel Alito, in a concurring opinion, pushed back: “And how does dissent account for the fact that one of the mass shootings near the top of his list took place in Buffalo? New York law involved in this case obviously did not stop this author.”
The conservative justices also dismissed concerns from New York gun law advocates about how the law restricted the carrying of guns 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 such places. But extending the category of ‘sensitive places’ to all places of public assembly that are not isolated from law enforcement defines the category of ‘sensitive places’ far too broadly,” Thomas wrote.
First major gun decision in a decade
Since handing down two major Second Amendment cases in 2008 and 2010, the court has largely sidestepped the issue, but agreed to take up the dispute again after Judge Amy Coney Barrett arrived, underscoring its impact on the new court. conservative.
In District of Columbia v. Heller of 2008, the court ruled for the first time that the Second Amendment protected an individual’s right to keep and carry guns in their home for self-defense. With the exception of a follow-up ruling two years later, the judges have largely stayed away from the issue, infuriating gun rights advocates and even some of the judges themselves.
Thomas and other conservatives have made it clear they believe the lower courts thumbed their noses at the Heller decision by keeping the restrictions. “The Second Amendment is a disadvantaged right in this court,” Thomas previously said.
The case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, concerned a New York law governing licenses to carry handguns concealed in public for self-defense. It required a resident to obtain a permit to carry a concealed pistol or revolver and demonstrate that there is a “good cause” for the permit. Residents must show that they have a great need for the permit and that they face a “special or unique danger to their lives”.
The law requires applicants who wish to carry a handgun in public without restriction to demonstrate a “real and articulate” self-defense need, as opposed to a “speculative or specious” need.
A panel of judges from the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the New York law did not violate the Second Amendment.
The Biden administration backed New York and told the Supreme Court in a brief that while the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to own and bear arms, that right is “not absolute.”
Acting Solicitor General Brian Fletcher told the justices the law was “firmly rooted” in the country’s history.
The petitioners in the case were Robert Nash, Brandon Koch and the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association – an affiliate of the NRA. They were represented by Paul Clement, a George W. Bush-era solicitor general who argued that the Second Amendment guarantees a right not just to “keep guns,” but to bear them.
Nash and Koch had passed the required background checks and obtained licenses to carry firearms for hunting and target practice, but they had been unable to establish a special need for self-defense that is required by law to receive an unlimited license.
Clement argued that the law makes it almost impossible for an ordinary individual to obtain a license because the “good cause” standard is so demanding and left to the “broad discretion” of the licensing officer.
“Good, even irreproachable character, plus a mere desire to exercise a basic right is not enough,” Clement said. “Nor does living or being employed in a high crime area.”
Nash, for example, asked to carry a handgun to defend himself after a series of robberies in his neighborhood. But he was refused because he did not demonstrate a particular need for self-defense. Koch wanted a similar license and he was able to cite his experience attending safety training courses. He too was refused.
Gun advocacy groups touted the ruling as a victory for Second Amendment rights and the rights of individuals to protect themselves, while gun safety advocates argued the ruling would lead to more armed violence.
Several New York Democrats denounced the decision, including New York Governor Kathy Hochul, who called the court’s decision “shocking” and “frightening in its scope about how they are setting back this nation and our ability to protect our citizens”.
“Today the Supreme Court is setting us back in our efforts to protect families and prevent gun violence. And it is especially painful that this is happening right now, when we are still dealing with families who are suffering. mass shootings that took place – the dead, their beloved children and grandchildren,” Hochul told reporters on Thursday.
NSW Police discover huge trove of illegal weapons in statewide operation
The governor said she was prepared to call the state legislature back into session in response to the decision. She said state lawmakers have already been alerted and are considering possible dates to meet again.
New York Mayor Eric Adams, a former NYPD captain, said the gun ruling, “put simply,” will put New Yorkers “at additional risk of gun violence” in a statement promising a specific action to mitigate the risks, according to him, the decision will create.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said the decision “seriously undermines public safety not just in New York City, but across the country.” Bragg says his office is “analyzing” the ruling and developing gun safety legislation that will take steps to “mitigate the damage done today.”
The National Rifle Association, meanwhile, called the Supreme Court’s decision a “landmark victory.”
“Today’s decision is a decisive victory for good men and women across America and is the result of a decades-long fight by the NRA,” the NRA executive vice president said. , Wayne LaPierre, in a press release. “The right to self-defense and defense of your family and loved ones should not end at your home.”