Supreme Court relaxes NYC rules on carrying guns in public – California in crosshairs

On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a New York gun law that gave government officials sweeping powers to limit who can carry a loaded gun in public, a clear warning shot to California and several other states that severely limit concealed permits. wearing.

Gun rights advocates hailed the decision as a victory, while supporters of stricter gun laws and Democratic leaders in California criticized the decision as a setback in efforts to curb gun violence following the mass shootings in Uvalda, Texas, and Buffalo. , New York, last month.

The ruling comes just as Congress is poised to pass the most significant bipartisan gun law in decades, which will include funding to pass and enforce “red flags” like California’s.

“As a result of today’s decision, more people will be harmed by firearms,” ​​Eric Tierschwell, general counsel for Everytown Law, which supports stronger gun laws, said of the New York State Riflemen’s and Pistols Association’s decision v. Kevin P. Bruen. Superintendent of the New York State Police.

Brandon Combs, president of the Sacramento-based Gun Policy Coalition, called it “a major victory for the people and freedoms that our Constitution is designed to protect,” the implications of which will go beyond the mere carrying of guns in public.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has been calling for a slew of new gun laws in the state that already has the most restrictive firearms regulations in the nation, called the decision “shameful” on Twitter and said it violates “states’ rights to protect our citizens from executions in our streets, in schools and churches.”

However, even critics have said that the ruling will not allow anyone to just walk around with a loaded gun in public places.

In California, the open or concealed carry of a loaded firearm in most public places is generally prohibited unless the person has been issued a license by local law enforcement. These permits are issued by the sheriff or chief of police upon successful background checks, completion of a firearms safety course, and proof of residence, employment, or business in that city or county.

“States continue to have the right to restrict concealed carry permits to those who can safely own firearms,” ​​State Attorney General Rob Bont said in a statement. He said the state would quickly seek new legislation clarifying where concealed firearms are prohibited and the qualifications required to obtain a permit.

Donovan McWhorter, 33, of Alameda, welcomed the court’s decision with open arms, picking up his second firearm, a Smith & Wesson SD40 pistol. He works at a job that starts at midnight in San Francisco and fears that many people carry guns illegally.

“The feel of a gun owner is different,” McWhorter said. “You have enough confidence to talk to anyone.”

But Hamza Hauter, 26, of the Castro Valley, called the decision “ridiculous.” Standing outside a Safeway store in Castro Valley, he feared that mundane tasks like grocery shopping might now become more dangerous.

“It’s just going to be a scary situation,” Howter said. “You don’t know if a person has bad intentions.”

The Supreme Court case comes after two New York men challenged their state’s gun licensing regime, which requires owners to demonstrate that there is “a good reason” for carrying a loaded gun in public. Government officials denied their request, deeming their willingness to carry weapons for self-defense insufficient.

The Riflemen and Pistols Association, on behalf of the men, argued that law-abiding citizens should be allowed to arm themselves outside the home without having to prove the need for it.

In the majority opinion, Judge Clarence Thomas, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Judges Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, said the state law violated the Constitution’s Second Amendment right to bear arms.

The court ruled in a 2008 Washington, D.C. gun ban case that people have an individual right to arm themselves for traditional purposes such as self-defense at home, but left unanswered how much states can restrict those rights outside of a private home or business. .

In a ruling Thursday, the court ruled that “restricting the right to ‘carry’ guns at home would void half of the Second Amendment’s operational safeguards.” The court stated that citizens are not required to demonstrate a special need for their other constitutional rights, and that New York City’s requirement for good cause precludes “law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defence needs from exercising their right to keep and bear arms in public.” “.

But the court noted the long-standing legality of banning firearms in important public places, such as schools and government buildings, legislatures, polling stations and courthouses. While the judges declined to “comprehensively define what other places could be included, they said New York broke the rules by defining them “too broadly” in a way that would “effectively exempt cities from the Second Amendment.”

“I don’t think there’s any concern on our part that somehow schools are back in the game where state or local government can’t ban guns,” Tierschwell said.

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, an expert on constitutional law and gun regulations, said the ruling effectively aligns California laws with those in most other states that say authorities “should issue” permits to carry guns. in public places to citizens who are not prohibited by law. . Sheriffs in many California counties already actually issue permits in the same way.

Gun rights advocates said the ruling’s other language on how courts should evaluate Second Amendment cases would bolster their objections to California’s other gun laws.

“All the lawsuits that are already under consideration regarding magazines, assault weapons, waiting periods, ammunition laws – all of these laws will be challenged and I am very confident that they will not meet this standard and will be repealed,” said Sam Paredes, chief executive. director of the California Gun Owners Organization.

However, nothing will change overnight. The New York case will be sent back to the lower courts. And any change in California law is likely to come after state laws are challenged in court.

“Nothing changes,” Paredes said, “without a lawsuit.”

Staff writer Robert Salonga contributed.

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