States rush to revise laws after Supreme Court decision on guns

Tens of millions of Americans are facing an onslaught of litigation and legislative review after a sweeping Supreme Court decision making it easier to carry firearms in public upended gun control laws in at least half a dozen states.

The court’s decision Thursday — its first major ruling on the right of Americans to carry guns in public — is most closely tied to a New York State law that allows authorities to impose additional requirements before residents can obtain a concealed carry permit.

But five other states—California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey—have similar laws that lawmakers will now have to rewrite to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling or risk legal trouble because their existing laws unconstitutional. Three additional states — Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island — may need to rewrite laws that place certain restrictions on issuing gun permits outside the home, gun rights groups said.

The Supreme Court ruling does not immediately strike down or revise these state laws; it just makes it clear that they are unconstitutional, effectively forcing government officials to remake them.

“These states must comply or we will force them,” said Steven D. Stambolie, an attorney with Gun Owners of America.

Officials in affected states immediately condemned the decision, saying it would lead to more gun violence.

“This is a dangerous decision by a court seeking to promote a radical ideological agenda and violating the rights of states to protect our citizens from being shot in the streets, in schools and churches,” said California Gov. Gavin Newsom. said on twittercalling the decision “disgraceful”.

Brian Frosch, Maryland Attorney General, said in a statement that the judges’ decision would mean “more death and more pain in a country already awash with gun violence.”

Further legal wrangling is all but guaranteed as officials in some of the affected states have announced plans to try to draft new laws that attempt to implement the Supreme Court’s ruling while restricting gun permits.

Options include mandating a significant amount of required training before a permit is issued or imposing a gun ban on certain high-traffic areas such as public transportation systems, schools, polling stations or parks, Constitutional and Second Amendment lawyers said Thursday. The changes will almost certainly entail new lawsuits.

Newsom said Thursday that California lawmakers “foresaw this moment” and will consider a bill next week strengthening the state’s “public carry” law, rewriting it to regulate gun use in a way that blunts the ordinance’s impact. He added that he was preparing to sign 16 gun safety bills this session, including one that would allow individuals to sue gun manufacturers and distributors for trafficking in firearms.

“California has proven that common sense gun laws save lives,” Mr. Newsom said, “and we will continue to stand up to those in political power who support and coddle the arms industry.”

Other states said they would consider similar steps.

New York Gov. Katie Hochul said she would call a special legislative session as early as July and laid out proposals that could allow the state to retain some of the toughest gun laws in the country.

New Jersey Gov. Philip D. Murphy said his administration is revisiting the wording of the court and considering options that “we believe are still available to us as to who can carry concealed weapons and where they can carry them.”

In Maryland, Bill Ferguson, who heads the State Senate, and Adrienne Jones, who leads the House of Delegates, wrote in a joint statement that they will consider the opinion and, if necessary, pass legislation that “protects the people of Maryland and lives up to this brand.” – a new precedent.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy said she and 19 other attorneys general told the Supreme Court last year that the Second Amendment does not prevent states and localities from regulating guns in public places “as they have done for hundreds of years.”

“Now, by default, you can bring legally carried firearms into private property, unless you’re expressly banned,” said Eric Reuben, assistant professor of law at SMU’s Dedman School of Law. “States may consider whether this default should be reversed in a world where more Americans carry concealed weapons.”

How much harder or easier it will be to get a concealed carry permit in these states will only be determined by lawmakers’ responses, said Darrell Miller, a Duke University law professor and co-director of the Duke Firearms Law Center. .

“Obviously, these states will have to change their laws so that the licensing authority has less leeway to deny a permit,” Mr. Miller said.

The ruling will create problems for more than just concealed carry laws, as it explicitly overrides the legal standard, nicknamed the “two-step test” that federal courts have used to assess Second Amendment issues since the Supreme Court’s major gun rights ruling. . in 2008.

Instead, the court ruled that the standard of “history and tradition” should be used to judge these matters. This standard will require the courts to assess whether modern gun law is in any way similar to the rules that existed around the time the Second Amendment was passed in the late 18th century.

“We’re going to see a lot of litigation,” said Adam Winkler, a UCLA professor who specializes in gun policy. “This is a new test for Second Amendment cases that calls into question most of the key elements of the gun safety agenda over the past decade.”

As a result, according to lawyers on both sides of the gun dispute, pending cases or even past decisions related to issues such as banning certain assault rifles or high-capacity magazines on handguns or rifles could have different outcomes more favorable to gun rights. .

Mr. Stambolie, a lawyer for Gun Owners America, already moved on Thursday to ensure that the federal courts in which he has pending cases take into account the Supreme Court’s decision, including in a Hawaii case challenging law prohibiting the carrying of handguns outside the country. at home.

“It’s a lot broader than I thought the trial was going to go,” he said. “Now there is so much work. ”

The United States was already moving in the direction of relaxing concealed carry requirements. Over the past decade, 22 states have enacted laws to eliminate permit requirements entirely. only 25 states do not require a concealed carry permit.

“This case reflects the wide-ranging cultural changes already underway in most other states regarding the legal carrying of guns in public,” said Jennifer Carlson, assistant professor of sociology, public administration, and public policy at the University of Arizona. “The point is to systematize the cultural changes that have already happened in most states and force those changes on the states that haven’t followed that trend.”

The ruling will also potentially trigger changes in gun control regulations adopted at the local government level.

California allows gun owners to carry concealed weapons, but the issuance of permits is left to local law enforcement and varies widely. In rural counties or jurisdictions with Republican police chiefs or sheriffs—Sacramento, for example—a permit to carry a gun outside the home usually requires little more than a gun safety class, a clean criminal record, and a fee.

However, in more populated parts of the state, gun owners hoping to carry a concealed firearm may face significant hurdles.

San Francisco applicants must provide “compelling evidence” that they or their families currently face “significant risk of life or serious bodily injury” and that law enforcement or reasonable evasion cannot adequately address the issue. They must also complete 16 hours of firearms training, pass a background check and a psychological examination, and have no history indicating a history of violence or careless use of firearms. Even so, the sheriff’s decision is “discretionary and final”. local rules say.

California gun laws are among the strictest in the country, and researchers largely believe that the death rate from firearms is almost 40 percent lower than the rest of the country. On Thursday, state lawmakers and Attorney General Rob Bonta said they have been adapting legislation to reflect the New York case for some time.

Mr. Bonta acknowledged the decision would outlaw the state’s requirement that Californians show “good cause” to carry guns in public, but he said other requirements, including background checks and firearms safety training remain constitutional. “States,” he said, “still have the right to limit concealed carry permits to those who can safely own firearms.”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said the decision could lead New Yorkers to fear that someone around them might be carrying a gun.

“We can’t let New York become the wild, wild west,” said Mr. Adams, a Democrat who emphasizes reducing the city’s crime rate. “This is unacceptable”.

But this decision was celebrated elsewhere.

In Hawaii, George Young, a Vietnam veteran who challenged a state law that requires residents to provide specific reasons why they should be allowed to carry a gun outside the home, was “delighted” to learn of the Supreme Court’s decision, his lawyer said. , Alan Alexander Beck.

“Finally, his Second Amendment rights were upheld,” Mr. Beck said of his client. “This not only upholds Mr. Young’s rights in this case, but also empowers us to stand up for other people’s rights under the Second Amendment.”

Alain Delaquerière contributed to research.

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