The US Supreme Court on Thursday struck down New York State’s limits on the carrying of concealed firearms in public as unconstitutional, handing a historic victory to gun rights advocates in a nation deeply divided over how address gun violence.
The 6-3 ruling, with most of the court’s conservative justices and liberal justices disagreeing, found that the state law, enacted in 1913, violated a person’s right “to keep and bear arms” under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.
In an opinion written by Judge Clarence Thomas, the justices overturned a lower court ruling that dismissed a challenge to the law by two gun owners and the New York affiliate of the National Rifle Association, an influential gun group. gun rights closely aligned with Republicans.
The restriction in New York, the fourth most populous US state, is unconstitutional because it “prevents law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to keep and bear arms,” Thomas said.
It is outrageous that at a time of national reckoning over gun violence, the Supreme Court has recklessly struck down a New York law that limits who can carry concealed weapons.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul called the decision “scandalous” given the “national reckoning on gun violence” currently taking place after mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas.
“In response to this ruling, we are closely reviewing our options, including calling a special session of the legislature,” Hochul said.
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First-year New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who has made crime a key priority, agreed with the governor.
“Simply put, this Supreme Court ruling will put New Yorkers at increased risk of gun violence,” said Adams, who had a long career in law enforcement before entering electoral politics.
“We have been preparing for this decision and will continue to do everything we can to work with our federal, state and local partners to protect our city.”
The recent mass shootings this spring have galvanized lawmakers in the US Senate, who are closer to bipartisan gun reform for the first time in decades at the federal level. A vote in the chamber could take place as soon as Thursday.
The 80-page bipartisan Safer Communities Act would encourage states to keep guns out of the hands of people deemed dangerous and strengthen background checks for would-be gun buyers convicted of domestic violence or major felonies when they were minors. .
It does not include broader gun control measures favored by Democrats, including US President Joe Biden, such as a ban on assault rifles or high-capacity magazines.
Biden said in a statement that he was “deeply disappointed” by the Supreme Court’s decision.
“In the wake of the horrific attacks in Buffalo and Uvalde, as well as daily acts of gun violence that don’t make national headlines, we must do more as a society, not less, to protect our fellow citizens,” Biden said.
“As the late judge [Antonin] Scalia recognized, the Second Amendment is not absolute,” he continued, evoking the name of the Supreme Court jurist revered by conservatives.
Judges Steven Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotamayor disagreed with the court’s decision.
Breyer listed a number of recent mass shootings, including in Buffalo, in his lengthy dissent, but coincidentally, Judge Samuel Alito questioned their relevance.
“The New York law at issue in this case obviously did not stop that perpetrator,” Alito said.
New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, a Republican, hailed the decision as a corrective to New York’s “shameful attempt to destroy the Second Amendment rights of New Yorkers.”
Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the NRA, called the ruling “a decisive victory” that resulted from a decades-long fight led by his organization.
The highest court’s biggest gun ruling in years
The decision represents the court’s most important statement on gun rights in more than a decade. In 2008, the court first recognized a person’s right to keep guns in the home for self-defense in a District of Columbia case, and in 2010 applied that right to states.
The new ruling underscored how the conservative majority on the court is sympathetic to an expansive reading of Second Amendment rights.
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Under New York law’s “adequate cause” requirement, applicants seeking an unrestricted concealed carry permit must convince a state firearms licensing officer of a real, rather than speculative, defense need. own. Officials may also issue restricted licenses for certain activities, such as hunting or target practice.
The ruling could lead to many more people obtaining concealed carry licenses in the state, undermine similar restrictions in other states, and jeopardize other types of state and local firearms restrictions across the country by requiring that judges examine them with a more skeptical eye under the Constitution. .
Gun safety groups and gun control activists feared a sweeping ruling against New York could undermine gun measures, such as “red flag” laws targeting the firearms of people deemed dangerous. by the courts, expanded criminal background checks for gun buyers, or restrictions on the sale of untraceable guns. “ghost” pistols assembled from components purchased online.
They also feared such a ruling could jeopardize gun bans in sensitive places like airports, courthouses, hospitals and schools.
Conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh, in a concurring opinion, said states can still impose requirements on people applying for firearms licenses, including fingerprinting, background checks, mental health screenings and training classes. with firearms.
Read the US Supreme Court decision: