Thursday, June 23, 2022

Second Amendment: Supreme Court Blocks New York Law Limiting Guns in Public

This is the case of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen, a case in my mind whose outcome was never in doubt. The Court's 6-3 conservative majority is shifting the direction of constitutional law back to the "original intent" doctrine favored earlier by big names such as former Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Associate Justice Anton Scalia. It's very exciting. Leftists are losing their minds on Twitter

The decision strikes down New York's requirement that those seeking a permit to carry a gun in public must show "proper cause," meaning an individual must show a special need to carry a firearm, distinct from that of the general public's. That requirement is now swept away in what's being said is a dramatic expansion of Second Amendment rights in constitutional law. 

Here's SCOTUS Blog on the decision, "In 6-3 ruling, court strikes down New York’s concealed-carry law":

The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a New York handgun-licensing law that required New Yorkers who want to carry a handgun in public to show a special need to defend themselves.

The 6-3 ruling, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, is the court’s first significant decision on gun rights in over a decade. In a far-reaching ruling, the court made clear that the Second Amendment’s guarantee of the right “to keep and bear arms” protects a broad right to carry a handgun outside the home for self-defense. Going forward, Thomas explained, courts should uphold gun restrictions only if there is a tradition of such regulation in U.S. history.

Thursday’s landmark decision came less than six weeks after a gunman killed 10 Black people at a Buffalo supermarket, and less than a month after 21 people – 19 children and two teachers – were shot to death at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. In response to those shootings, the Senate this week reached an agreement on bipartisan gun-safety legislation that, if passed, would be the first federal gun-control legislation in nearly 30 years. The 80-page bill would (among other things) require tougher background checks for gun buyers under the age of 21 and provide more funding for mental-health resources.

The state law at the heart of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen required anyone who wants to carry a concealed handgun outside the home to show “proper cause” for the license. New York courts interpreted that phrase to require applicants to show more than a general desire to protect themselves or their property. Instead, applicants must demonstrate a special need for self-defense – for example, a pattern of physical threats. Several other states, including California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, impose similar restrictions, as do many cities.

The lower courts upheld the New York law against a challenge from two men whose applications for concealed-carry licenses were denied. But on Thursday, the Supreme Court tossed out the law in an ideologically divided 63-page opinion.

The court rejected a two-part test that many lower courts have used to review challenges to gun-control measures. That test looked first at whether a restriction regulates conduct protected by the original scope of the Second Amendment and then, if so, whether the restriction is fine-tuned to advance a significant public interest. Instead, Thomas wrote, if “the Second Amendment’s plain text covers an individual’s conduct,” the government has the burden to show that the regulation is consistent with the historical understanding of the Second Amendment.

Applying that new and more stringent standard to the New York proper-cause requirement, Thomas found that the challengers’ desire to carry a handgun in public for self-defense fell squarely within the conduct protected by the Second Amendment. The amendment’s text does not distinguish between gun rights in the home and gun rights in public places, Thomas observed. Indeed, he suggested, the Second Amendment’s reference to the right to “bear” arms most naturally refers to the right to carry a gun outside the home.

After reviewing nearly seven centuries’ worth of historical sources, beginning in the 1200s and going through the early 1900s, Thomas concluded that although U.S. history has at times placed some “well-defined restrictions” on the right to carry firearms in public, there was no tradition of a broad prohibition on carrying commonly used guns in public for self-defense. And with rare exceptions, Thomas added, there was no historical requirement that law-abiding citizens show the kind of special need for self-defense required by the New York law to carry a gun in public. Indeed, Thomas concluded, there is “no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need.”

Thomas rebuffed New York’s effort to justify its proper-cause requirement as an effort to regulate guns in “sensitive places” – specifically, crowded urban areas, like Manhattan, where people are likely to gather. Thomas agreed that, as a historical matter, there have long been laws restricting guns in places like courthouses and polling places. Moreover, he continued, restrictions that apply to the modern versions of “sensitive places” may also pass constitutional muster. Although Thomas left open exactly what might qualify as a “sensitive place,” he made clear that urban areas do not meet that definition. The state’s “argument would in effect exempt cities from the Second Amendment and would eviscerate the general right to publicly carry arms for self-defense,” Thomas concluded...

Still more.