Supreme Court strikes down New York law restricting guns in public places

WASHINGTON. On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that Americans have a broad right to arm themselves in public, overturning a New York law that imposes strict restrictions on carrying guns outside the home and provoking brawls in other states that have similar restrictions.

The decision is expected to spark a wave of lawsuits to ease existing state and federal restrictions and force five states – California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey, home to a quarter of all Americans – to rewrite their laws.

The ruling follows last month’s mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalda, Texas, and came on the day the Senate passed a gun control bill that will strengthen background checks on potential gun buyers aged 18 to 21 and also serve incentive for states to take such action. – called red flag laws and tightened the federal ban on the purchase of firearms by perpetrators of domestic violence. It was the most significant action by Congress on gun legislation in nearly three decades.

The 6-to-3 decision again demonstrated the power of six conservative judges, all of whom voted to repeal the New York law, in setting the national social agenda. The three liberal members of the court disagreed.

The Second Amendment, Judge Clarence Thomas wrote for the Majority, protects “the right of the individual to carry a pistol for self-defense outside the home.” Judge Thomas wrote that states could continue to ban guns in some places, such as schools and government buildings, but the ruling leaves open the question of exactly where such bans could be allowed.

Moments after the ruling was passed, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul vowed to reconvene the Legislature as early as next month to pass new measures that could allow the state to keep existing rules. Democratic lawmakers in Maryland have also proposed rewriting the legislation to avoid expected legal problems.

“We are already dealing with a major crisis of gun violence,” Ms Hochul said. “We don’t need to add fuel to this fire.”

The case involved so-called laws that give government officials considerable discretion in issuing gun licenses.

In a concurring opinion that seemed to limit the reach of the majority opinion, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., wrote that laws “should be made” that use objective criteria and remain supposedly constitutional. Generally, states could require, he wrote, “fingerprinting, background checks, mental health screening, and training in firearms and laws regarding the use of force.”

Judge Kavanaugh also cited at length the court’s 2008 decision in DC v. Heller, which appears to support other restrictions.

President Biden condemned the decision, describing himself as “deeply disappointed.” It “contradicts both common sense and the Constitution and should be of deep concern to all of us,” he added.

Gun rights advocates welcomed the decision on Thursday. “The court has made it clear that the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment is not limited to the home,” said Larry Keane, a senior official with the arms industry’s leading trade group, the National Shooting Sports Foundation. “That the burden of justifying restrictions lies with the government, and not with individuals who must justify to the government the need to exercise their rights.”

Wall Street firearms stock prices rose, with Smith & Wesson shares up more than 9 percent.

Jonathan Loewy, a lawyer for the gun control group Brady, said the decision was a serious mistake. “With a stroke of the pen,” he said in a statement, “today the Supreme Court has invented the supposed right to carry a loaded weapon almost anywhere — to potentially shoot and kill other people.”

The case centered on a lawsuit brought by two men who were denied licenses they applied for in New York, stating “the state makes it almost impossible for the average law-abiding citizen to obtain a license.”

The men, Robert Nash and Brandon Koch, were allowed to carry guns for target shooting and hunting away from populated areas, government officials told the Supreme Court, and Mr. Koch was allowed to carry guns to and from work.

Judge Thomas wrote that citizens are not required to explain to the government why they sought to exercise a constitutional right.

“We know of no other constitutional right that a person can exercise only after demonstrating some special need to public servants,” he wrote.

“The First Amendment works differently when it comes to unpopular speech or free worship,” he added. “That’s not how the Sixth Amendment works when it comes to a defendant’s right to confront witnesses against him. And that’s not how the Second Amendment works when it comes to public wear for self-defense.”

The majority opinion proclaimed the general standard by which courts should now judge gun rights restrictions based on historical assessments: “The government must demonstrate that regulation is in line with this country’s historical tradition of regulating firearms.”

By focusing on history, Justice Thomas overruled the standard used by most lower courts that considered whether a law was in the important public interest.

He acknowledged that the historic investigation now required by the court will not always be easy.

Judge Thomas wrote that states can still ban firearms in vulnerable locations, citing several examples: schools, government buildings, legislatures, polling places, and courthouses. But he warned that “expanding the category of ‘sensitive places’ simply to all public places that are not isolated from law enforcement defines the category of ‘sensitive places’ too broadly.”

In dissent, Judge Stephen J. Breyer argued that majority leadership was inadequate, making the scope of the judgment unclear.

“What about subways, nightclubs, cinemas and sports stadiums?” Judge Breyer wrote. “The court does not speak.”

Judge Breuer’s dissent, joined by Judges Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, focused on the fatal victims of gun violence.

“In 2020,” he wrote, “45,222 Americans were killed by firearms. Since the beginning of this year, there have been 277 mass shootings, averaging more than one a day. Gun violence has now surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of death among children and adolescents.”

In concurring opinion, Judge Samuel A. Alito, Jr. responded to the dissent.

“It’s hard to see what legitimate purpose much of the long introductory section of dissent can serve,” he wrote. “Why, for example, do those who disagree consider it appropriate to talk about the mass executions that have taken place in recent years? Does dissent think that laws like New York prevent or deter such atrocities?

“Will a person intending to carry out a mass shooting be stopped if they know it is illegal to carry a gun outside the home?” Judge Alito asked. “And how does the dissent explain the fact that one of the mass shootings at the top of the list took place in Buffalo? The New York state law in question in this case clearly did not stop this perpetrator.”

Judge Breyer questioned the majority’s methodology for assessing the constitutionality of gun control laws in New York State Riflemen and Pistols Association v. Bruen, no. 20-843.

“The court’s almost exclusive recourse to history is not only unnecessary, but profoundly impractical,” he wrote. “This imposes on the lower courts a task that judges cannot easily accomplish.”

Judges, he wrote, are not historians. “Legal experts generally have little experience in answering disputed historical questions or applying those answers to contemporary problems,” he wrote, adding: “Laws relating to repeating crossbows, lancegays, daggers, daggers, skins, stiladers, and other ancient weapons are of little help. courts facing contemporary challenges.

In the Heller case, the Supreme Court recognized the right of every person to keep a gun at home for the purpose of self-defence. Since then, little has been said about the scope of Second Amendment rights.

Indeed, the court over the years has dismissed countless Second Amendment appeals. Meanwhile, lower courts generally upheld gun control laws.

The court’s reluctance to hear Second Amendment cases has changed as its composition has shifted to the right in recent years. Three of President Donald Trump’s appointees — Judges Kavanaugh, Neil M. Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett — have all expressed support for gun rights.

And the most conservative members of the Supreme Court have long regretted the court’s reluctance to examine the meaning and scope of the Second Amendment.

In 2017, Judge Thomas wrote that he found “an alarming trend: treating the Second Amendment as an unfavorable right.”

“For those of us who work in marble halls, constantly guarded by a vigilant and dedicated police force, Second Amendment guarantees may seem outdated and redundant.” Judge Thomas wrote. “But the creators made a clear choice: they left all Americans the right to bear arms for self-defense.”

Glenn Thrush made a report.

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