Guns

Supreme Court rules making it easier to carry guns in public

The Supreme Court on Thursday eased restrictions on carrying firearms in public, continuing a court trend in recent years of easing gun restrictions.

The court’s conservative majority ruled 6 to 3 that New York could not ban gun owners from carrying their handguns outside their homes based on the state’s determination that the citizen did not have sufficient reason to fear for his own safety.

The affair of New York State Rifles and Pistols Association vs. Bruen was based on a lawsuit brought by two New York men who challenged a state law that requires them to have “lawful cause,” or special need, in order to carry a gun outside their home. residence. The decision will have a ripple effect for other states with similar restrictionssuch as California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey.

In Thursday’s decision, which was written by conservative judge Clarence Thomas, the court found New York’s just cause requirement to be unconstitutional. The court’s three liberal justices dissented.

The decision comes just weeks after one of the worst mass shootings in US history, in which 19 children and two teachers were slaughtered by a young man carrying a high-powered rifle in Uvalde, Australia. Texas.

The decision has been expected for arguments from last fallwhen it became clear that the six conservative judges were skeptical of state authority to determine who has “just cause” and who does not.

Judge Clarence Thomas wrote the majority decision. (Erin Schaff/Pool via Reuters)

“We know of no other constitutional right that an individual can exercise only after demonstrating to government officials a special need,” Thomas wrote in Thursday’s ruling.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution states: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The plaintiffs in the New York case argued that state law restricted their right to “bear arms.”

But supporters of the law said public safety, especially in densely populated urban areas, is also a state government mandate. They argue that states — rather than the Supreme Court — are better equipped to craft policies that balance gun rights with public safety concerns.

What was unknown was the extent to which the court would allow states to restrict guns in public places through other policies and laws, such as designating certain “sensitive places” as gun-free. fire. The decision affirmed the right of states to continue to limit or ban firearms in these places, but placed some limits on the broad definition of this term.

“It is true that people sometimes congregate in ‘sensitive locations’, and it is also true that law enforcement professionals are generally presumed to be available in such locations. But expanding the category of “sensitive places” simply to all places of public gathering that are not isolated from law enforcement defines the category of “sensitive places” far too broadly,” Thomas wrote.

Conversely, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, one of the six conservatives, wrote a concurring opinion, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, who sought to impose limits on the majority decision. “Like most rights, the right guaranteed by the Second Amendment is not unlimited,” Kavanaugh wrote, citing former Justice Antonin Scalia, also a conservative, in a previous gun case, District of Columbia vs. Heller.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh. (Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images)

Kavanaugh said the court’s decision does not negate or nullify licensing requirements currently in place in most states which “may require a license applicant to undergo fingerprinting, background checks, a mental health records check and training in firearms and use of force laws, among other possible requirements.

Kavanaugh also cited Scalia’s list of possible restrictions on gun ownership.

“Nothing, in our view, should be taken to cast doubt on long-standing prohibitions on the possession of firearms by criminals and the mentally ill, or laws prohibiting the carrying of firearms in places sensitive such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms,” ​​Kavanaugh quoted Scalia as writing. He included Scalia’s assertion of regulations and restrictions on “dangerous and unusual weapons” that are not “in common use”.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul answered immediately to the court’s decision and focused on what her state will do in the new decision. She outlined an approach that will clarify how the state defines sensitive locations and introduce a more robust permitting process, training requirements and rules for private owners to designate their own boundaries.

During oral argument, the New York lawyers had argued that the court should allow each state to make its own laws on the matter.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

“The Anglo-American legal tradition for centuries included limits on the public bearing of arms, a tradition imported immediately into the colonies and which existed to protect the public from harm,” wrote Jeremy Feigenbaum, the attorney for the State of New Jersey, the last year.

“The simple truth is that what works in rural Alaska may not work in an urban center of New York or New Jersey, and state legislatures are in a much better position to sift through safety evidence courts and hear from local law enforcement than one national court,” Feigenbaum said.

But the plaintiffs’ lead attorney argued last fall that the court should shift the state’s power to restrict the ability to carry firearms outside the home and limit the exercise of that right. in certain spaces such as schools, government buildings, sports arenas and large public events.

“It is the difference between regulating a constitutionally protected activity and attempting to convert a fundamental constitutional right into a privilege enjoyed only by those who can demonstrate to the satisfaction of an official that they have an atypical need for the exercise of this right,” plaintiffs’ lawyer Paul Clément told the judges.

The majority of the court agreed with Clement.