Washington — The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down awhich imposed strict restrictions on the carrying of firearms concealed in public for self-defense, holding that its requirement that applicants for a concealed carry license demonstrate a special need for self-defense is unconstitutional.
In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling upholding New York’s 108-year-old law limiting who can get a license to carry a concealed handgun in public. Supporters of the measure have warned that a High Court ruling overturning it could threaten gun restrictions in several states and lead to more guns on city streets.
Judge Clarence Thomas expressed the majority opinion for the ideologically divided court, writing that New York’s “just cause requirement” prevented law-abiding citizens from exercising their Second Amendment rights and that its licensing regime was unconstitutional.
“The constitutional right to bear arms in public in self-defense is not ‘a second-class right, subject to an entirely different set of rules from the other guarantees of the Bill of Rights,'” Thomas wrote. “We know of no other constitutional right that an individual can exercise only after demonstrating to government officials a special need. That is not how the First Amendment works when it comes to unpopular speech or the free exercise religion. That’s not how the Sixth Amendment works when it comes to a defendant’s right to confront prosecution witnesses. And that’s not how the Second Amendment works when it comes to this is public carry for self-defense.
Writing in dissent for the liberal wing of the court, Justice Stephen Breyer noted the increase in gun violence in the United States and the pervasiveness of firearms, and warned that states striving to adopt tougher gun laws will be “severely” weighed down by the court’s decision.
“In my view, when courts interpret the Second Amendment, it is constitutionally appropriate, indeed often necessary, that they consider the grave dangers and consequences of gun violence that drive states to regulate firearms,” wrote Breyer. “The Second Circuit did and ruled that New York law did not violate the Second Amendment. I would affirm that decision.”
The court’s decision follows a series of mass shootings from mid-May to early June that rocked the nation and acted as a catalyst for Congress to once again seek consensus on a legislative plan to address the armed violence. On May 14, a racist gunman engaged in a shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, NY,. Ten days later, 19 children and two teachers were massacred in a in Uvalde, Texas. Then, on June 1, in a medical building in Tulsa, Okla.
Ruling marks first extension of gun rights, when the Supreme Court recognized that the Second Amendment protects the right to keep firearms in the home for self-defense. The New York court battle was also the biggest Second Amendment case before the court since its 2008 ruling, and That said, the right to have a handgun in the home applies to states. the Supreme Court’s 6-3 conservative majority would agree that the Second Amendment protects the right to carry a gun in public.
In a concurring opinion by Justice Brett Kavanaugh and joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, Kavanuagh noted that the court’s ruling does not prohibit states from imposing licensing requirements for carrying handguns and leaves untouched existing plans in 43 states. Instead, it only affects tougher licensing rules in six states, including New York.
President Biden said in a statement that he was “deeply disappointed with the decision” and again urged states to pass changes to their laws to address gun violence.
“This decision contradicts both common sense and the Constitution, and should trouble us all deeply,” he said.
The New York licensing law at the heart of the dispute dates back to 1913 and requires residents applying for a license to carry a firearm outside the home to demonstrate “lawful cause” to obtain one, which , according to state courts, is a “special need for self-protection.”
The two plaintiffs in the case, Robert Nash and Brandon Koch, each applied for carry licenses, but licensing officers denied their applications because they failed to establish a valid reason for carrying firearms. fist in public. Both have obtained “restricted” licenses to carry firearms for target shooting, hunting and outdoor activities.
Along with the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, Nash and Koch challenged the constitutionality of New York’s ban on carrying handguns in public and the just cause requirement in 2018. A federal district court dismissed their action and the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision, leaving the licensing regime in place.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, critical the Supreme Court’s decision, saying on Twitter that it was “outrageous that at a time of national wake-up call on gun violence, the Supreme Court recklessly struck down a New York law that limits who can carry guns concealed”.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams said the court’s decision “would put New Yorkers at increased risk of gun violence.” He pledged to carry out a “comprehensive review” of the approach to defining places where the carrying of firearms is prohibited and to review the application process to ensure that only those who are qualified can obtain a port permit.
“This decision may have opened up another river feeding the sea of gun violence, but we will do everything we can to stem it,” he said.
Former President Trump took credit for the court’s decision, saying on his Truth Social platform: “Elections have consequences. I promised to appoint judges and judges who would defend the Constitution. Today, the Supreme Court upheld the Second Amendment right of all Americans. .”
Half of the states generally require a state-issued license to carry a concealed firearm in public, and of those, about six other states—California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island—allow a person to carry a gun in public only if they need to. In these six states, government officials have discretion to deny licenses, even if the applicant meets statutory criteria.
New York officials and the Biden administration, who have urged the Supreme Court to uphold the law, warned justices during oral arguments in November that invalidating the measure could have a domino effect, jeopardizing not only state restrictions, but also others that limit transport to places where people congregate, such as airports, arenas, churches and schools.
Some of the judges seemed concerned about how a broad ruling could impact restrictions on where large amounts of people gather. Roberts, for example, questioned whether a state or city could ban guns in football stadiums or places where alcohol is served, while Judge Amy Coney Barrett asked questions. on banning guns in “sensitive places,” like Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
In a concurring opinion, Judge Samuel Alito criticized Breyer’s dissent for recounting the recent mass shootings.
“Does dissent believe that laws like New York’s prevent or deter such atrocities? Will a person determined to commit a mass shooting be arrested if they know it is illegal to wear a handgun outside the house? And how does dissent explain that one of the mass shootings near the top of its list took place in Buffalo?” he wrote. “Law of New York involved in this case obviously did not arrest this author.”
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