The U.S. Constitution is seen on an ammunition magazine in an assault-style rifle at a demonstration in Dallas on May 5, 2018. On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Americans can legally carry guns outside the home. File Photo by Sergio Flores/UPI | License Photo
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday issued a rare decision involving constitutional gun rights and ruled that Americans have the right to carry arms outside of the home and in public — in a major victory for advocates of the Second Amendment.
The high court voted 6-3 in striking down a New York law that said gun owners must demonstrate a need to carry firearms outside the home to obtain a legal permit.
The court was split along ideological lines, with all six conservative justices voting against the New York law and the three progressive justices voting to uphold the gun-safety statute.
Writing for the majority, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas said the New York law goes too far in restricting legal possession of firearms and said it violates the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“Because the state of New York issues public-carry licenses only when an applicant demonstrates a special need for self-defense, we conclude that the state’s licensing regime violates the Constitution,” Thomas wrote in the ruling.
Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts in his opinion, which said that striking down the New York law doesn’t prevent states from enacting various gun-safety measures. Rather, it faulted the New York law for not being specific enough as to what’s acceptable and what is not.
Kavanaugh wrote that the law is “constitutionally problematic because it grants open-ended discretion to licensing officials and authorizes licenses only for those applicants who can show some special need apart from self-defense.”
Conservative Justices Samuel Alito and Amy Coney Barrett also wrote concurring opinions, and Justice Stephen Breyer, who is retiring at the end of the current term, wrote a dissenting opinion and was joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
“In 2020, 45,222 Americans were killed by firearms. Since the start of this year, there have been 277 reported mass shootings — an average of more than one per day,” Breyer wrote.
Activists rally in Los Angeles protest on June 11 after 19 children were killed in a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. The high court’s three progressive justices cited the attack and other recent gun violence in their dissenting opinion. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
“Many states have tried to address some of the dangers of gun violence … by passing laws that limit, in various ways, who may purchase, carry, or use firearms of different kinds. The court today severely burdens states’ efforts to do so.”
The case stems from a lawsuit filed by the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association against the state, which argued that the restriction made it almost impossible to get a legal carry permit and treats the Second Amendment as a privilege and not a right.
President Joe Biden said he was “deeply disappointed” by the ruling.
“In the wake of the horrific attacks in Buffalo, [N.Y.], and Uvalde, [Texas], as well as the daily acts of gun violence that do not make national headlines, we must do more as a society — not less — to protect our fellow Americans,” he said.
“I urge states to continue to enact and enforce commonsense laws to make their citizens and communities safer from gun violence. As the late Justice [Antonin] Scalia recognized, the Second Amendment is not absolute.
“For centuries, states have regulated who may purchase or possess weapons, the types of weapons they may use, and the places they may carry those weapons. And the courts have upheld these regulations.”
Progressive political leaders in the state also reacted with disappointment after the ruling Thursday.
“It is outrageous that at a moment of national reckoning on gun violence, the Supreme Court has recklessly struck down a New York law that limits those who can carry concealed weapons,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a tweet.
“We are closely reviewing our options — including calling a special session of the legislature. Just as we swiftly passed nation-leading gun reform legislation, I will continue to do everything in my power to keep New Yorkers safe from gun violence.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., called the decision “irresponsible” and “downright dangerous.”
“Our nation is in the middle of a gun violence epidemic — and the Supreme Court just made it easier to carry concealed weapons in public. We have to act fast to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals,” she wrote in a tweet.
Thursday’s opinion was a rare decision by the Supreme Court on the issue of gun rights and the Second Amendment.
The last time the court made a ruling of similar significance was 2008, when it concluded that Americans have a right to keep a gun in their homes. Thursday’s ruling effectively expanded that ruling to reach outside the home and in public.
“This is a great victory for 2nd Amendment rights, not only in New York but all across America,” the New York Republican Party said in a tweet.
“Now, law-abiding gun owners in New York state and across the nation can again exercise their constitutional right to concealed carry to protect themselves and their families,” Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., said in a statement.
The Supreme Court’s decision in the case isn’t the only high-profile ruling that’s expected before the current term ends this month. It is also expected to overturn the landmark abortion ruling in Roe vs. Wade as part of a Mississippi case, which would allow states to entirely ban the procedure.
The court, in fact, added an extra day to issue decisions Friday because of its large caseload.
The abortion ruling is expected to go against Roe vs. Wade because of a leaked opinion in early May that signaled opposition from the court’s conservative majority. The leak, which was extremely rare for a draft opinion from the high court, spurred a wave of demonstrations nationwide on both sides of the issue.
“Gonna be very weird if the Supreme Court ends a constitutional right to obtain an abortion … saying it should be left to the states to decide, right after it just imposed a constitutional right to concealed carry of firearms, saying it cannot be left to the states to decide,” Neal Katyal, a law professor and former deputy solicitor general under former President Barack Obama, wrote in a tweet after Thursday’s ruling.
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