Justice Thomas: law violates Constitution by preventing law-abiding citizens from defending themselves in public
The Supreme Court voted 6–3 on June 23 to strike down New York state’s draconian concealed carry gun permitting system on constitutional grounds, recognizing for the first time a constitutional right to carry firearms in public for self-defense.
The ruling is a sweeping victory for Second Amendment gun ownership rights and may help to undo restrictive gun control laws outside New York state, possibly including so-called red flag laws, which allow the confiscation of guns in certain circumstances with limited due process.
The Second Amendment states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
The Supreme Court has been strengthening Second Amendment protections in recent years, and observers have said that the court’s six-member conservative supermajority could help expand gun ownership protections. In District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment protects “the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation,” and in McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010), it held that this right “is fully applicable to the States.”
The ruling comes amid rising crime rates, activist demands to defund police departments, and a Biden administration push to strengthen gun control policies. A legislative package, introduced in the wake of a series of high-profile mass shootings, is moving forward in Congress.
Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association (NRA) hailed the decision, calling it a “watershed win for good men and women all across America” and taking credit for the victory after “a decades-long fight the NRA has led.”
“The right to self-defense and to defend your family and loved ones should not end at your home,” LaPierre said.
President Joe Biden condemned the new ruling, which he said “contradicts both common sense and the Constitution and should deeply trouble us all.”
“I call on Americans across the country to make their voices heard on gun safety. Lives are on the line,” Biden said.
The Empire State’s gun permit law, like laws in seven other states, generally requires an applicant to demonstrate “proper cause” in order to obtain a license to carry a concealed handgun in public.
New York makes it a crime to possess a firearm without a license, whether inside or outside the home. An individual who wants to carry a firearm outside his home may obtain an unrestricted license to “have and carry” a concealed “pistol or revolver” if he can prove that “proper cause exists” for doing so, according to state law. An applicant satisfies the “proper cause” requirement only if he can “demonstrate a special need for self-protection distinguishable from that of the general community,” according to a 1980 ruling by the Supreme Court of New York in Klenosky v. New York City Police Department.
The specific issue before the court was whether the state’s denial of the petitioning individuals’ applications for concealed-carry licenses for self-defense violates the U.S. Constitution.
Oral arguments in the case, New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, court file 20-843, an appeal from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, were heard Nov. 3.