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Supreme Court says Constitution protects right to carry a gun outside the home

<i>Samuel Corum/Bloomberg/Getty Images</i><br/>The Supreme Court struck down a New York gun law enacted more than a century ago that places restrictions on carrying a concealed handgun outside the home -- an opinion marking the widest expansion of gun rights in a decade.
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Samuel Corum/Bloomberg/Getty Images
The Supreme Court struck down a New York gun law enacted more than a century ago that places restrictions on carrying a concealed handgun outside the home -- an opinion marking the widest expansion of gun rights in a decade.

By Ariane de Vogue and Tierney Sneed, CNN

The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a New York gun law enacted more than a century ago that places restrictions on carrying a concealed handgun outside the home — an opinion marking the widest expansion of gun rights in a decade.

“Because the State of New York issues public-carry licenses only when an applicant demonstrates a special need for self-defense, we conclude that the State’s licensing regime violates the Constitution,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the court’s 6-3 majority.

The opinion changes the framework that lower courts will use going forward as they analyze other gun restrictions, which could include the proposals currently before Congress if they eventually become law.

“The majority’s expansion of what the Second Amendment protects will have monumental ramifications far beyond carrying firearms in public — on everything from age restrictions to assault weapons bans to limits on high-capacity magazines,” said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law.

“We’re in for a whole new slew of litigation challenging any and every gun-control measure in light of the analysis in today’s ruling,” Vladeck said.

Critics say the ruling will impair sensible solutions they think can curb gun violence.

Only about a half dozen states have similar laws to New York’s — California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey — have similar regulations, but those states are comprised of some of the most densely populated cities in the country.

Twenty-five states generally allow people to carry concealed weapons in most public spaces without any permit, background check or safety training, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

In his opinion, Thomas said that going forward the government “may not simply posit that the regulation promotes and important interest,” instead he said the judges must look to text and history when deciding whether a law passes muster.

“Only if a firearm regulation is consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition may a court conclude that the individual’s conduct falls outside the Second Amendment’s unqualified command,” Thomas said. “We too agree, and now hold, consistent with Heller and McDonald, that the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect an individual’s right to carry a hand- gun for self-defense outside the home.”

President Joe Biden, who is working with Congress on gun control legislation, said he is “deeply disappointed” with the decision.

“This ruling contradicts both common sense and the Constitution, and should deeply trouble us all,” Biden said in a statement. “In the wake of the horrific attacks in Buffalo and Uvalde, as well as the daily acts of gun violence that do not make national headlines, we must do more as a society — not less — to protect our fellow Americans.”

Dissents cite recent mass shootings

In a dissent joined by the other liberals, Justice Stephen Breyer noted the spate gun violence and said that the court, listing several recent shootings, including the massacre at the Buffalo grocery store earlier this year. Thursday’s ruling “severely burdens States’ efforts” to curb gun violence, Breyer wrote.

“The primary difference between the Court’s view and mine is that I believe the Amendment allows States to take account of the serious problems posed by gun violence that I have just described,” Breyer wrote. “I fear that the Court’s interpretation ignores these significant dangers and leaves States without the ability to address them.”

Justice Samuel Alito, in a concurring opinion, pushed back: “And how does the dissent account for the fact that one of the mass shootings near the top of its list took place in Buffalo? The New York law at issue in this case obviously did not stop that perpetrator.”

The conservative justices also dismissed concerns defenders of New York’s gun law raised about how the law restricted the carrying of firearms into sensitive places.

“It is true that people sometimes congregate in ‘sensitive places,’ and it is likewise true that law enforcement professionals are usually presumptively available in those locations. But expanding the category of ‘sensitive places’ simply to all places of public congregation that are not isolated from law enforcement defines the category of ‘sensitive places’ far too broadly,” Thomas wrote.

First major ruling on guns in a decade

Since handing down two major Second Amendment cases in 2008 and 2010, the court has largely dodged the issue but agreed to take up the dispute after Justice Amy Coney Barrett arrived, highlighting her impact on the new conservative court.

In 2008’s District of Columbia v. Heller, the court held for the first time that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms at home for self-defense. Except for a follow-up decision two years later, the justices largely stayed away from the issue infuriating gun rights advocates and even some of the justices themselves.

Thomas and other conservatives have made clear they believe lower courts have been thumbing their noses at the Heller decision by upholding restrictions. “The Second Amendment is a disfavored right in this court,” Thomas has previously said.

The case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, concerned a New York law governing licenses to carry concealed handguns in public for self-defense. It required a resident to obtain a license to carry a concealed pistol or revolver and demonstrate that “proper cause” exists for the permit. Residents must show that they have a great need for the license and that they face a “special or unique danger to their life.”

The law requires applicants who want to carry a handgun in public without restriction to show an “actual and articulable” self-defense need, as opposed to one that is “speculative or specious.”

A panel of judges on the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals held that New York’s law did not violate the Second Amendment.

The Biden administration supported New York and told the Supreme Court in a brief that while the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms, the right is “not absolute.”

Acting Solicitor General Brian Fletcher told the justices that the law was “firmly grounded” in the nation’s history.

The petitioners in the case were Robert Nash, Brandon Koch and the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association — an NRA affiliate. They were represented by Paul Clement, a George W. Bush-era solicitor general who argued that that the Second Amendment ensures a right not just to “keep arms,” but to bear them.

Nash and Koch had passed the required background checks and obtained licenses to carry guns for hunting and target practice, but they had not been able to establish a special need for self-defense that is required under the law to receive an unrestricted license.

Clement argued that the law makes it almost impossible for an ordinary individual to obtain a license because the “proper cause” standard is so demanding and left to the “broad discretion” of the licensing officer.

“Good, even impeccable, moral character plus a simple desire to exercise a fundamental right is,” Clement said, “not sufficient.” “Nor is living or being employed in a high crime area.”

Nash, for instance, requested to carry a handgun for self-defense after a string of robberies in his neighborhood. But he was denied because he did not demonstrate a special need for self-defense. Koch wanted a similar license, and he was able to cite his experience of participating in safety training courses. He too was denied.

Reaction

Gun rights groups touted the ruling as a win for Second Amendment rights and individuals’ rights to protect themselves, while gun safety advocates argued that the ruling would result in more gun violence.

Several New York Democrats decried the ruling, including New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, who called the court’s decision “shocking” and “frightful in its scope of how they are setting back this nation and our ability to protect our citizens.”

“Today the Supreme Court is sending us backwards in our efforts to protect families and prevent gun violence. And it’s particularly painful that this came down at this moment, when we’re still dealing with families in pain from mass shootings that have occurred — the loss of life, their beloved children and grandchildren,” Hochul told reporters Thursday.

The governor said she’s prepared to call the state legislature back into session in response to the ruling. She said state legislators have already been alerted and that they’re looking at possible dates for reconvening.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a former NYPD captain, said the decision on guns, “put simply,” will put New Yorkers “at further risk of gun violence” in a statement vowing specific action to mitigate the risks he says the decision will create.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said the ruling, “severely undermines public safety not just in New York City, but around the country.” Bragg says his office is “analyzing” the ruling and crafting gun safety legislation that will take steps to “mitigate the damage done today.”

The National Rifle Association, meanwhile, called the Supreme Court ruling a “watershed win.”

“Today’s ruling is a watershed win for good men and women all across America and is the result of a decades-long fight the NRA has led,” NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said in a statement. “The right to self-defense and to defend your family and loved ones should not end at your home.”

This story has been updated with additional details and reaction.

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CNN’s Laura Ly, Rob Frehse, Kirstina Sgueglia, Brian Vitagliano and Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report.

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Comments

118 Comments

    1. It is in the constitution. Get over it. For that matter so it’s free speech but modern “liberals” don’t believe in that either.

              1. Marines are Well Regulated. They are men who volunteered to leave their home, cut their hair, learn responsibility and honor and discipline, and have earned the right to carry a gun. You are a boomer who demands all the rights without any of the responsibilities for himself.

                1. The USMC (1798) did not exist when the second amendment was ratified (1791).

            1. Well, if you died you wouldn’t be saying that. Guns are to protect yourself from other folks with a gun. Sorry you didn’t have one.. or know how to use one for that matter. (FYI- they’re used for protection so that you don’t get shot first.)

    2. Oh Bobby… ya know why the OK Corral was so legendary? Because it was such a rare occurrence. The “wild west” is a concept of frontier life painted by Hollywoods golden years. The truth is many back then had guns, which largely deterred criminals. Today is much less polite than then as many don’t make self preservation thier responsibility, yet evil will continue to prey on the defenseless.

        1. It deters a lot: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defensive_gun_use problem is people don’t take their self preservation seriously. As for polite, that is relative. Maybe less hat tipping and yes sir yes ma’am, but we have not had a Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc… in the U.S. Hmmm… why ya reckon? Maybe because, to quote Isoroku Yamamoto, “I would never invade America, there is a gun behind every blade of grass.” guns deter crime. You don’t see mass shootings in police stations or gun shows, people there tend to be “polite.”

            1. Just how many names do you go by on this forum? Your points are a little smarter than Bob Bablaugh but weaker than iKnow. I haven’t seen Keyser on here in some time but your logic and vernacular are spot on there. Just curious if there are this many dimwitted leftists on this site? Or is there one keyboard jockey in thier moms basement with split personality disorder playing troll by many screen names?

  1. So lets get this straight, the 2nd Amendment states we have the RIGHT to keep and BEAR arms followed up by shall NOT be infringed needed clarification and further enforcement on those infringing? The 2A is your concealed carry permit. End of story.

    1. no, it’s not. If it were every idiot who wanted to carry a gun would be out there and we would have way more events that would be a serious danger to the public (including you and your family) like the one at Safeway the other day

      1. My comment did not factor in the fact that you need a background permit and not be a known criminal. Duh. If you are legally eligible to purchase a firearm you should be able to carry it any way you want. Thats the point. Its actually more dangerous to carry openly than concealed. You don’t want criminals knowing you have a firearm on you. If they can see it, they will target you to eliminate their risk then carry out there evil deeds. The point is, if you’re legal, you can carry concealed, no permit necessary. Tell me what criminals are following law and are applying for concealed permits.

        1. I think you should not be allowed to carry unless you’ve passed concealed carry permit class given by the Sheriff, and passed training and background checks. Then you’re good to go.

      2. Not true. You have no idea just how many scary guns you walk by in Safeway or any other store or anywhere and you have survived all those encounters…..

        1. scary guns? You mean scary people. I carry one of those scary guns everywhere and if someone was attacking you or your life was threatened. Guess what, I’d be there to stop it and save YOUR life. Criminals don’t follow laws that man creates, hence their willingness to commit the ultimate crime, murder.

          1. I also legally conceal carry all the time. Only 8% of Oregonians have chl, and less than half of them actually carry regularly. I can ALWAYS tell who’s carrying. There’s no way, and I mean NO WAY I’m getting into someone else’s mess, that’s asking for years of legal trouble and bankruptcy. I carry to protect my gf from maga, everyone else is on their own.

          1. Actually I’m not “upset” about anything- in fact I am as giddy as that gravy grinnin’ Kavanaugh who gets the final word on those idiot protesters stomping around his neighborhood- one in particular said he was gunnin’ for the robed one… half-wits like that will now reconsider “opening up” on anyone- knowing that possibility of return fire is very real ! President Trump’s supreme court nominations have once again saved our nation and our beloved constitution !

      3. Anyone who wants to carry a gun does carry a gun. You think the cartel gang banger walking across the border cares what the law says?

  2. If you are interested in the FACTS – go to scotusblog.com. This KTVZ article is just a regurgitation of CNN and will only inflame and scare readers. Facts Please!

    Justice Kavanaugh wrote in a concurring opinion “todays ruling does not prohibit states from imposing licensing requirements for carrying a handgun for self defense”. In Justice Alito’s concurring opinion I agree with his question to Justice Breyer-how does this stop the Buffalo shooter or the Uvalde shooter. The case before them was about concealed handgun carry permits and the State of New York using subjective licensing requirements for concealed carry permits.

    Buffalo, Uvalde and the other mass shootings are absolutely horrific. This opinion would not have stopped those shootings. However the majority of gun deaths in this country are caused by guns obtained illegally. And the majority of these violent crimes are committed in impoverished neighborhoods. This FACT must be recognized and only then will possible solutions be brought to the table.

    1. That’s a pretty good piece right there. The demographic of shooters is pretty well figured out, but it seems a lot of people want to fling our money at problems that aren’t really the problem, all the while ignoring common denominators, such as the two you mentioned

    1. Well this just affirms what has been a lawful right across the vast majority of states. The few states who decided to behave unlawfully have now been corrected.

  3. Another expertly written ruling from justice Thomas. Thank God for that man. And happy birthday your honor!
    The real shocking thing about this ruling is that the 3 liberal justices don’t believe law abiding Americans have the right to defend themselves. Sickening.

  4. What about the words of the 2nd Amendment are not understandable?
    “The right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
    The Supreme Court has FINALLY upheld the meaning behind the words that to most of America’s gun owners have known… to infringe a right is to VIOLATE it.
    Pretty clear language. Kudos to Supreme Court for upholding the Constitution as written.

      1. So, are you willing to be restricted to words and writing instruments used in 1789 or will you claim “natural progression” to the more modern devices, words, and phrases?

    1. Your precious 2nd amendment is literally only one short sentence, yet you had to cherry pick it?

      “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

      1. Militia’s at the time were regulated by the state’s as are our gun laws today. Stop whining- take a concealed and carry class- learn to shoot- be an adult for once and stop relying on big government for your every need !!!

          1. Out at a BLM protest every weekend? “At” BLM, like headquarters? Or out “on” BLM, i.e. the preposition one would use for being on a general geographic location run by the bureau of land management? By your command of the language I’d wager it’s the latter, in a tent, when you’re not panhandling around town.

  5. Next up, all felons should immediately have their 2nd amendment restored as soon as all time and fines are served and paid. No matter what. They served their time, their rights should be restored.

    1. Yes, exactly. Except, why wait until fines are paid? Not sure the 2nd amendment says it’s contingent on fines being paid. Also, does it cover bullets? They weren’t invented when 2nd amendment was written. The right to bear muskets shall not be infringed!

      1. There was no telephone, internet or social media when the first amendment was written either cog1. So by your logic; the right to freedom of speech and pen to paper? Think about your syllogisms and maybe you’ll come across smarter.

        1. Just applying the same logic as the SC. Also, quill and paper. Pens weren’t around. You bring up a good point though, freedom of speech doesn’t cover all forms of speech; yelling fire in a crowded theatre, etc.
          Time to update to keep up with the times/will of the people.

          1. Looks like ya need to brush up on some Latin there cog, https://www.etymonline.com/word/pen in reality we’re not talking about freedoms, rather liberties. Yes there are limits to our bill of rights, and none are as heavily regulated as the second amendment. If it’s so popular as to need updated by the current will of the people let’s put it to a vote, otherwise it’s just mob rule by the current administration. Which is one such tyranny the second was PENNED to protect against. Till then maybe start enforcement of laws on the books. Conservatives seem to support enforcement, libs just like a soft stance on criminals and instead blame the law abiding. Just some ideas, keep ya from being another cog in the wheel.

      2. Bullets have been around as long as firearms. They’ve been made of rock, wood, and various metals or combination of metals. Back in the day of muskets, they were called “balls”.

          1. He said bullet not cartridge nitwit. Your response highlights the reason the left can’t make sensible gun laws, or make sense in much anything: many don’t even know the proper language, let alone what they’re talking about. Far worse however are the ones that know the language but choose to twist meanings for divisive reasons. They’re either ignorant or intellectually dishonest, which are you?

      1. Why stop at the 2nd? Are you suggesting some rights are more important than others? What is the point of serving a sentence if it doesn’t restore one’s rights?

  6. This ruling is long overdue. The majority of states either have constitutional carry or shall-issue concealed carry laws that follow the constitution. It is only a handful of states such as NY that have unconstitutional laws on their books which restrict access and freedom of movement. Good ruling.

  7. A right specifically stated with an amendment in the Bill of Rights is HATED by the democrat leftists. Yet they manage to find “rights” that exist NO WHERE in the constitution. Go figure.

      1. Considering you can legally own tanks, fighter jets, artillery pieces, mortars, and rockets/launchers . . . You could probably own your own nuke as well. Just realize, in all those cases mentioned, they have to be “demilitarized” (disarmed) and you have to apply for a federal tax stamp and when required, a state tax stamp in order to buy/own said weapons. BTW, in all above cases, it also requires a special background check. On a side note, you can own your own nuclear missile silo as well.

        1. You can own fully functional howitzers, tanks, and machine guns. Just gotta register and pay the tax. The government always gets their cut.

    1. Well I mean conservatives doing the same thing got them to change to their ruling about the 2a applying only to militias as it is actually written, declare a state sponsored religion, and it also got them to declare women state property, so you honestly might be on to something.

    1. Well let’s see, No to airports, schools, State Offices, police stations, stadiums, Hayden Homes Amphitheater, Courthouses. How many Gang Bangers have a concealed carry permit, not many I would assume. I don’t see that quote in this article, did you make it up?

        1. If guns are so dangerous, how come the ukes don’t just set them outside and let them kill the aggressors on their own? Why not get send the guns to war and no men?

  8. can someone please educate me and tell me what new law is going to stop a criminal? Which new law are the criminals going to start following?

      1. AFAIK it can range from anything from the military being used to force compliance and remove state officials from office to sanctions like cutting off programs like TANF, WIC, SNAP, and social security / medicare from its citizens.

      2. It would depend on the ruling. For example, if Roe vs Wade is overturned it will have zero effect on what the citizens of a State decide. It will affirm the right of the State to decide. That’s the beauty of being a Republic!

      1. I went and bought a new gun tonight, because I can. In and out in 5 minutes, background check came back immediately as approved, I think I’m on the frequent buyer plan. Don’t take my rights away, I’m not the problem. Not one of my guns have ever been pointed at a person, and hopefully never will. Our government knows where the problem lies, and would rather fight the 2nd amendment than the problem. Gang Bangers don’t do background checks, criminals don’t follow laws.

  9. this is one out of a few leftist states. The rest of us can carry concealed which is now up to 25 or 26 states that have constitutional carry. Key word being CONSTITUTIONAL. The other states you can carry concealed with a fairly easy to get permit that costs less than $100, finger printing, application all after passing a background check to purchase said gun. In Oregon its easy to get, but it shouldn’t require an additional permit once you pass the background check to buy it in the first place.

  10. This is a HUGE step forward in individual rights protected by the constitution!!! When will the liberals wake up and understand there is no such thing as gun violence. It is human violence!! Stop the humans before the commit the violence. This is a step towards sanity.

    1. Why is there so much less “human violence” in Europe and Asia? My guess it’s because God hates America. Why else would God put a bunch of guns in the hands of a bunch of untrained undisciplined maga domestic terrorists? This is obviously God’s plan, and it’s working splendidly. God hates America, and he wants us to all kill each other in ‘self-defense’.

  11. Yep, you’re responses carry fingerprints of too many other names. You have definitely gone by Keyser, probably cog1, maybe Martha, but I doubt you’re Bablaugh. And, you’re certainly bumming it with a LOT of free time. Get a job, a clue and start contributing to society. You owe it!

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