The Supreme Court issued its first significant judgment on Second Amendment rights in more than ten years on Thursday, overturning a New York state rule that made it difficult to acquire a permit to carry a pistol outside the home.
Similar limits in more than half a dozen other states that grant licensing authorities broad discretion over concealed carry permits would almost probably become illegal as a result of the 6-3 decision to nullify New York’s legislation.
The court’s six conservative members joined Justice Clarence Thomas’ majority opinion, which said that the Second Amendment protects “an individual’s right to carry a pistol for self-defense outside the house.” The decision was divided along ideological lines.
The relevant New York legislation requires applicants for concealed carry permits to show a specific need for a license, above and beyond a fundamental desire for self-defense. The so-called proper-cause requirement, according to the court’s conservatives, inhibited “law-abiding persons with ordinary self-defense requirements from exercising their right to keep and carry guns,” they decided in their decision to overturn the legislation.
Thomas stated for the majority: “We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may use only after proving to government authorities some unique necessity.” “When it comes to controversial speech or the free exercise of religion, the First Amendment does not operate in that way. When it comes to a defendant’s right to cross-examine the witnesses against him, that is not how the Sixth Amendment operates. And that’s not how the Second Amendment operates when it comes to carrying a weapon in public for self-defense.
Legal experts predict that the verdict will call into question a wide variety of other gun regulations due to its vast scope, which amounts to a full rewrite of the court’s Second Amendment theory.
In their dissent, the three liberal members of the court charged the conservative majority with disregarding “the possibly lethal repercussions of its ruling.”
The decision was made after recent mass shootings sparked an agonizing discussion over how to strike a balance between Americans’ concerns for personal safety and their constitutional right to carry weapons in a nation with more than 390 million privately held firearms.
A procedural vote on a bipartisan gun reform package, developed in reaction to those tragedies and including proposals to close the “boyfriend gap,” support red flag legislation, and strengthen background checks for individuals under 21, will take place in the Senate on Thursday.
Two New Yorkers were turned down for unrestricted carry permits, which led to Thursday’s lawsuit. The applicants, who were supported by a National Rifle Association member, sued the licensing authorities. After failing in lower courts, they filed their eventually victorious appeal with the Supreme Court.
The choice could make it more difficult to enact contemporary gun control laws. The decision, by UCLA School of Law professor Adam Winkler, indicates that a gun law must be consistent with historical trends in a gun restriction to be constitutionally valid.
A red flag regulation, which was included in the Senate agreement, is a brand-new modern idea, he claimed. “Taking weapons away from individuals who are in trouble has never been done before.”
This ruling raises doubts about closing the “boyfriend loophole” since there has never been a law barring boyfriends who commit domestic abuse from owning weapons.
The opinion builds on the court’s previous significant ruling on gun rights, which occurred more than ten years ago. A 5-4 decision by the court in the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller established that a person’s right to have a gun at home for self-defense is protected by the Constitution. Although the Second Amendment is “not infinite,” the court in Heller left open the question of whether limitations are constitutionally permissible.
The majority left some legal ambiguity when it came to owning weapons in what it termed “sensitive settings,” even though the decision on Thursday largely preserves law-abiding people’s freedom to carry a pistol outside the home.
Thomas concluded that merely because Manhattan Island is populated and frequently guarded by the New York City Police Department does not constitute a historical foundation for New York to proclaim it a “sensitive site.” Thomas said, “Like Heller, we do not attempt a comprehensive historical study of the full extent of the Second Amendment,” underscoring that more specific characterization of sensitive locations will be reserved for other decisions.
Justice Stephen Breyer and his two fellow liberal members dissented, accusing the conservatives of adhering to historical comparison with an excessive amount of rigidity.
He wrote: “Attempts at ‘analogical reasoning’ will become increasingly torturous as technological advancement pushes our civilization even farther beyond the confines of the Framers’ imaginations. “In short, a history-based criterion is both unjustified and impractical.”
The Department of Justice had argued in favor of New York and asked the court to adhere to the long-standing custom of permitting legislators to impose reasonable restrictions on weapons to safeguard public safety on behalf of the Biden administration.
In their dissent, the court’s liberals attacked the majority for weakening states’ authority to control gun violence, saying that more than 45,000 Americans will die from gun violence in 2020.
“The main point of contention between the Court’s perspective and mine is that, in my opinion, the Amendment permits States to take into consideration the grave issues brought on by gun violence, as I have just outlined. Breyer, supported by Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, stated, “I worry that the Court’s approach ignores these important hazards and deprives States of the power to address them.