GUNSSupreme Court Sweeps Aside New York’s Limits on Carrying a Gun, Raising Second Amendment Rights to New Heights

By Morgan Marietta

Published 23 June 2022

The core argument of the 23 June Supreme Court decision in a case involving New York State law is that gun rights are to be treated the same as other hallowed rights like the freedom of speech or freedom of religion recognized in the First Amendment. For most of the history of the court, Second Amendment rights have been seen as distinct, more dangerous, and thus more open to regulation. The majority of justices have now changed that approach to the Second Amendment.

With its decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol v. Bruen on June 23, 2022, the Supreme Court has announced that the Second Amendment is not a second-class right.

The core argument of the decision is that gun rights are to be treated the same as other hallowed rights like the freedom of speech or freedom of religion recognized in the First Amendment.

For most of the history of the court, Second Amendment rights have been seen as distinct, more dangerous and thus more open to regulation. Now, the majority of justices has invoked a major change, with implications for many rights and regulations in American society.

The Case
To get a license to carry a concealed firearm in New York state, a citizen had to show a “proper cause.”

In practice, this meant that a local licensing official had to agree that the person had a “special need,” such as facing a current threat or recurring danger.

California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey also employ similar standards, known as “may issue” laws. Many other states instead have a “shall issue” regime where local officials must issue a license to carry a concealed firearm as long as the person does not have a disqualifying characteristic, including a felony conviction, mental illness or a restraining order against them.

In the case just decided by the Supreme Court, two applicants living in upstate New York, Robert Nash and Brandon Koch, were denied unrestricted concealed carry licenses because they had no special need other than personal protection. They insist that law denies their constitutional rights.

The History of Second Amendment Rulings
For most of American history, the court ignored the Second Amendment. The first major ruling on its meaning did not come until the 1930s, and the court did not address whether the amendment recognized a fundamental individual right until 2008 in the landmark D.C. v. Heller.

That ruling, written by the famously conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, recognized a right to keep a firearm in the home. How far the right extended into public spaces was not clear.

Scalia wrote that “like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.” That meant “longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill” or “prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons” were “presumptively lawful.”

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