The US supreme court has opened the door for almost all law-abiding Americans to carry concealed and loaded handguns in public places after the conservative majority struck down a New York law that placed strict restrictions on firearms outside the home.
The majority decision renders the New York law an unconstitutional violation of the second amendment right to bear arms. The law had required anyone wanting to carry a handgun in public to prove that they had a “proper cause” to do so.
The ruling has profound implications for the safety and conduct of up to 83 million people who live in New York and seven other states plus Washington DC, which have similar “proper cause” laws. They include some of the most heavily populated states in the country such as California and New Jersey, which between them account for roughly three out of every four Americans.
The decision in the case of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v Bruen is the latest in a string of supreme court rulings in which the conservative majority has undermined gun safety laws. In 2008 the court recognized an individual’s right to keep guns at home for self-defense, extending that right at state level in 2010.
The current case was brought to the supreme court’s attention after two men sued New York, objecting to the state’s licensing restrictions. Under the “proper cause” law, the men could secure unlimited permission to carry concealed guns in public only if they could demonstrate a special need for self-protection.
Lawyers for the men argued that carrying a firearm outside the home was a “fundamental constitutional right. It is not some extraordinary action that requires an extraordinary demonstration of need.”
Before the decision came down, several of the largest civil rights and gun safety groups in the US attempted to dissuade the supreme court from gutting New York’s regulations. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed an amicus brief in the case in which it argued that lifting controls on carrying guns in public places would harm basic first amendment rights such as assembly, association and speech.
Gun control advocates also warned that scrapping the gun controls could exacerbate relations between police officers and citizens because anyone coming into contact with law enforcement is now more likely to be legally armed.
The supreme court’s highly contentious action comes at a sensitive moment for New York and the country. The decision was handed down just weeks after an 18-year-old gunman carrying a legally bought assault-style rifle allegedly shot and killed 10 people in a racist attack on a supermarket in a majority African American neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, before being apprehended.
Ten days later another 18-year-old gunman broke into Robb elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and shot and killed 19 children and two adults including a teacher, before being shot dead by law enforcement.