(The Hill) — The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a New York state law that made it difficult to obtain a permit to carry a handgun outside the home, marking the justices’ first major opinion on Second Amendment rights in more than a decade.
The 6-3 decision to invalidate New York’s law throws into question the legality of similar restrictions in more than a half dozen other states that give licensing officials wide discretion over concealed carry permitting.
The ruling broke along ideological lines, with the court’s six conservatives joining a majority opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas.
The New York law at issue required concealed carry permit applicants to demonstrate a special need for a license, beyond a basic desire for self-defense. In striking down the law, the court’s conservatives ruled that the so-called “proper-cause requirement” prevented “law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to keep and bear arms.”
“We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need,” Thomas wrote for the majority. “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.”
The court’s three liberals, in dissent, accused the conservative majority of failing to consider “the potentially deadly consequences of its decision.”
The ruling comes after recent mass shootings reignited a wrenching debate over how to balance a constitutional right to bear arms with Americans’ concerns for personal safety in a country with more than 390 million privately owned firearms.
The opinion builds on the court’s last major gun rights decision more than a decade ago. In its 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, a 5-4 court ruled that the Constitution protects an individual’s right to keep a gun in the home for self-defense. The court in Heller noted that the Second Amendment is “not unlimited,” but left unanswered what restrictions are constitutionally allowed.
The dispute arose after two New York residents were denied unrestricted carry licenses. Backed by an affiliate of the National Rifle Association, the applicants sued the licensing officials and, after losing in the lower courts, filed their ultimately successful appeal to the Supreme Court.
Today’s Supreme Court decision is a devastating blow to Americans across the country who are tired of living in constant fear of gun violence.
Like every constitutional right, the right to keep and bear arms is not absolute. This Supreme Court appears to believe otherwise.
Today’s ruling will have broad and dangerous consequences for states, including New York, that have chosen to prioritize the right of people to feel safe – not just in schools and government buildings, but at their place of worship or the grocery store – over unfettered access to firearms.
For more than 100 years, New York State has required individuals to establish proper cause to carry a gun in public spaces because we know that more guns do not make our streets safer.
In the aftermath of the racist attack in Buffalo and the horrific school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, the Assembly Majority passed sweeping legislation to strengthen our existing gun laws and help keep New Yorkers safe in their schools, places of worship and in their communities.
Here in New York, we will continue to fight to end the scourge of gun violence. We will continue our work with the Senate and the governor to ensure New York has the strongest gun laws possible, but we cannot do it alone. This nation must open its eyes and begin a serious conversation about its dangerous fascination with guns and assault weapons. Our lives depend on it.NYS Speaker Carl Heastie
Today’s Supreme Court decision is a step in the right direction for millions of Americans who’ve been arbitrarily denied their Constitutional right to self-protection for decades. This ruling will give law-abiding New Yorkers the option of protecting themselves with a firearm in a state with significant crime issues. Violent criminals have never hesitated to carry guns illegally obtained. Maybe they’ll think twice now before committing additional crimes.NY Conservative Party Chair Gerard Kassar
The Second Amendment guarantees and protects the right of American citizens to keep and bear arms. Yet despite this, for nearly a century, gun owners in New York have endured numerous attacks on this constitutionally protected right, especially with regard to concealed carrying outside the home.
Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court reaffirms and strengthens our Second Amendment rights. As the defund the police movement goes mainstream in the Democrat Party and failed progressive policies like bail reform make our streets less safe, it is more important than ever to ensure law-abiding Americans can properly defend themselves inside and out of their homes. This vital issue was at the core of today’s ruling.
Last year, I was honored to lead 175 of my colleagues in an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of the plaintiffs in this case, which challenged New York’s onerous, arbitrary, and unconstitutional concealed carry laws. I am grateful for the overwhelming support of my colleagues, and today, I am glad to see that it made a difference. The Supreme Court has at last righted a wrong against all New Yorkers, affirming that no government has the right to trample on and chip away at our freedoms.
Make no mistake: the Second Amendment is still under attack by far-left politicians in Albany and Washington, including state lawmakers who have already pledged legislative action to undo the effects of this ruling. I will continue to strongly oppose these policies, which cut against our fundamental rights and make Americans less safe. I will continue fighting to protect the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms, and I will always stand for the Second Amendment.” Last July, Tenney led 175 of her House colleagues, including House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, House Republican Whip Steve Scalise, and House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, in an amicus brief to the Supreme Court, defending the right to conceal carry under the Second Amendment to the Constitution in the case New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen. In this case, New York residents asserted they were wrongly denied a concealed carry permit for personal protection by state officials. This case is the most significant victory for Second Amendment advocates since Heller v. District of Columbia in 2008, which reaffirmed the right of Americans to keep and bear arms for personal protection.U.S. Congresswoman Claudia Tenney
I am deeply disappointed by today’s Supreme Court decision, which removes an important barrier to gun violence that had existed in our state for over a century. There is an abundance of evidence that the proliferation of firearms results in more violent crime, and putting more guns on New York’s streets will only make it easier for criminals to get their hands on them. Requiring a proper cause for concealed carry is an overwhelmingly popular policy. We will explore ways to adjust our laws within the scope of today’s decision in order to keep New Yorkers safeNYS Senator Sean Ryan
As communities grapple with the horrific massacres in Buffalo, Uvalde, Tulsa, and the over 270 other places that have experienced a mass shooting this year alone, the Supreme Court today decided that guns are more important than lives in this country. Today’s decision reinforces the fact that states must step up to protect our citizens’ best interests and lead the way on necessary reform. In New York, we have led the way in passing smart, common sense gun safety legislation to address these tragedies and keep New Yorkers safer. In these devastating times, when the nation is reeling from mass shootings that have shaken Americans to their core, we must stand united to address the laws that keep allowing guns to fall into the wrong hands. New York will rise up to this latest challenge to pass additional gun safety legislation.”NYS Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins
This decision is misguided and dangerous. While Congress seems poised to pass a package of modest, common-sense gun safety reforms, six Supreme Court justices are taking it upon themselves to gut states’ rights to regulate guns. Make no mistake: New York’s gun permit law is a broadly popular, common-sense policy that has worked for more than a century. The Court’s majority wants to roll back a sound policy that makes our states healthier and safer. The State Senate, working with Governor Hochul and the Assembly, must come back into the session as soon as possible to reinforce the policies that help keep New York safe. I look forward to returning to Albany to update our laws now that we have seen this disgraceful decisionNYS Senator Rachel May