The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 today that a long-standing New York concealed carry law violated the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
In New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, the High Court heard arguments over the law’s requirement to demonstrate a “proper cause” for obtaining a license to carry a concealed pistol or revolver and whether the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms extends outside the home. New York is one of five states and the District of Columbia that have similar laws where the states have discretion to issue a concealed carry permit based on a purported need. There is a constitutional difference between “may” versus “shall” issue. These laws will also be affected by today’s decision. These states include California, Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and the District of Columbia.
Two plaintiffs, Robert Nash and Brandon Koch, filed a lawsuit challenging the law after the Empire State rejected their concealed carry applications for insufficiently demonstrating a special need for a permit despite having already passed required background checks for gun licenses for hunting and target practice.
Justice Clarence Thomas authored the majority opinion joined by Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett. Justices Alito and Barrett filed a concurring opinion. Justice Kavanaugh filed a concurring opinion joined by Chief Justice Roberts.
Justice Breyer filed a dissenting opinion joined by Justices Sotomayor and Kagan.
Today the High Court held that New York’s “proper-cause” requirement to obtain a concealed carry license violates the Constitution by preventing law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms in public for self-defense.
Justice Thomas wrote “that the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home. The New York ‘proper cause’ requirement violates the Constitution because it only allows public-carry licenses when an applicant shows a special need for self-defense.”
“The government will have to show that a gun regulation ‘is consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation. This test, accords with how we protect other constitutional rights,”
Justice Thomas added.
In District of Columbia v. Heller, the High Court held that the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect an individual’s right to keep and bear arms for self-defense. In today’s opinion, Justice Thomas referred to Heller’s discussion of “longstanding laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings.”
Justice Thomas wrote, “We therefore can assume it settled that these locations were ‘sensitive places’ where arms carrying could be prohibited consistent with the Second Amendment. And courts can use analogies to those historical regulations of ‘sensitive places’ to determine that modern regulations prohibiting the carry of firearms in new and analogous sensitive places are constitutionally permissible.”
On the other hand, Justice Thomas added, “expanding the category of ‘sensitive places’ simply to all places of public congregation that are not isolated from law enforcement defines the category of ‘sensitive places’ far too broadly.”
In this case, Justice Thomas explained that nothing in the Second Amendment distinguishes between home and public “with respect to the right to keep and bear arms…None of the historical limitations on the right to bear arms approach New York’s proper-cause requirement because none operated to prevent law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from carrying arms in public for that purpose,” Thomas wrote.
At the conclusion of the 63-page majority opinion, Justice Thomas added, “The constitutional right to bear arms in public for self-defense is not ‘a second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees.’ We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need. That is not how the First Amendment works when it comes to unpopular speech or the free exercise of religion. It is not how the Sixth Amendment works when it comes to a defendant’s right to confront the witnesses against him. And it is not how the Second Amendment works when it comes to public carry for self-defense.” [citation omitted]
In a concurring opinion joined by Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Kavanaugh wrote that today’s ruling “does not prohibit States from imposing licensing requirements for carrying a handgun for self-defense.” In particular. he wrote, “the Court’s decision does not affect the existing licensing regimes–known as ‘shall-issue’ regimes– that are employed in 43 states…. The states, including New York, that had used proper cause requirements ‘may continue to require licenses for carrying handguns for self-defense so long as those States employ objective licensing requirements like those used by the 43 shall-issue States.’”
Justice Breyer posted a list of mass shootings and criticized the majority opinion for deciding the case “without discussing the nature or severity” of gun violence.
“The primary difference between the Court’s view and mine is that I believe the [Second] Amendment allows States to take account of the serious problems posed by gun violence that I have just described. I fear that the Court’s interpretation ignores these significant dangers and leaves States without the ability to address them,” Justice Breyer wrote.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Today’s decision by the Supreme Court is a great victory to protect the Second Amendment and law-abiding citizens. The states and the District of Columbia that have similar laws to the one struck down by the High Court today are the same states that were the worst offenders of the First Amendment imposing unconstitutional COVID restrictions on places of worship. That’s not surprising. The Founders wrote the Constitution based on the historical importance of the right to bear arms. The Second Amendment is not an aberration. States cannot pretend like it doesn’t exist.”