“We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need. That is not how the First Amendment works when it comes to unpopular speech or the free exercise of religion. It is not how the Sixth Amendment works when it comes to a defendant’s right to confront the witnesses against him. And it is not how the Second Amendment works when it comes to public carry for self-defense.”
But anti-gun New York State Attorney General Letitia James issued a defiant statement in which she declared, “Today’s decision by the Supreme Court to strike down New York’s proper cause requirement to carry a concealed weapon is incredibly disappointing. For more than a century, this law has protected New Yorkers from harm by ensuring that there are reasonable and appropriate regulations for guns in public spaces.
“The Supreme Court made its decision,” James said in a prepared statement, “but the fight to protect American families from gun violence will march on. In the days to come, my office will be taking action to address the potential harm that this ruling may cause, and we will continue to defend the constitutionality of our state’s laws, as we’ve always done. We will work with the Governor and Legislature to amend our licensing statute that will continue to protect New Yorkers. I want to reassure all New Yorkers that our robust gun protection laws remain intact and we will be working with our partners in government to further strengthen them.”
Thomas’ ruling runs 63 pages, and there are concurring opinions from Justices Brett Kavanaugh (with Chief Justice John Roberts joining), Samuel Alito, and Amy Coney Barrett.
In the course of striking down the New York law, Justice Thomas also blew a hole in Joe Biden’s oft-repeated canard that the Second Amendment placed limits on gun owners.
Thomas notes on Page 37, “…there is little evidence of an early American practice of regulating public carry by the general public. This should come as no surprise—English subjects founded the Colonies at about the time England had itself begun to eliminate restrictions on the ownership and use of handguns.”
The National Rifle Association, which supported the case, issued a statement:
“The National Rifle Association (NRA) welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision in NYSRPA v. Bruen. The Court affirmed that the right to bear arms does not stop at a person’s front door. This is the most significant Second Amendment ruling in more than a decade.
“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,” said Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association. “The right to self-defense and to defend your family and loved ones should not end at your home. This ruling brings life-saving justice to law-abiding Americans who have lived under unconstitutional regimes all across our country, particularly in cities and states with revolving door criminal justice systems, no cash bail and increased harassment of law-enforcement. ”
The NRA has been focused on promoting “shall-issue” protocols and eliminating “may-issue” laws since the late 1980s, and before today’s decision, only eight states still operated under “may-issue” statutes. The Supreme Court’s ruling today marks the end of these subjective, unconstitutional permitting schemes.
“This is a monumental win for NRA members and for gun owners across the country. New York’s egregious law, which left its residents’ self-defense rights to the whim of a government bureaucrat, has been declared unconstitutional and must be changed. New Yorkers will soon be able to defend themselves outside of their homes without first having to prove that they have a sufficient “need” to exercise their fundamental rights,” said Jason Ouimet, executive director, National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA). “This is more than just a great day for New York because this ruling opens the door to rightly change the law in the seven remaining states that still don’t recognize the right to carry a firearm for personal protection. The NRA has been at the forefront of this movement for over 30 years and was proud to bring this successful challenge to New York’s unconstitutional law.”
The case challenged New York’s requirement that applicants for concealed carry licenses demonstrate “proper cause” to carry a firearm outside of their home. New York routinely used this requirement to deny law-abiding citizens the ability to properly protect themselves. New York is one of eight states that operate under such a “may issue” regime, and the NRA has long fought to abolish this practice in favor of “shall issue” or “constitutional carry” in which law-abiding citizens can exercise their right to carry as long as they meet certain objective criteria.
While the importance of this case cannot be understated and today NRA members enjoy a well-deserved victory, NRA remains committed to continuing this fight. Today’s ruling established the right to carry does not disappear at a person’s front door, but many unconstitutional gun control laws remain in America. The NRA will continue to fight these laws until every law-abiding American can exercise their right to defend themselves and their families with the firearm of their choosing.”
Likewise, the Second Amendment Foundation—which submitted an amicus brief in the case—issued this statement:
Today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down New York’s “good cause” requirement to obtain a carry permit is a long-overdue affirmation that the right to bear arms exists outside the home, and always has, the Second Amendment Foundation said.
“We are gratified that the high court has said there can be no bureaucratic prerequisite to exercising one’s constitutionally-protected right to bear arms,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb. “For too many generations, New York’s requirement has been the vehicle by which the constitutional rights of average law-abiding citizens have been deprived under color of law.
“Government bureaucrats have routinely been arbitrary and all-too-eager to prevent honest people from having the means to defend themselves against violent crime outside of their homes,” he continued. “This pattern of exclusivity—allowing only those with wealth and political connections to legally carry guns in public—has been an affront to the constitution for decades, and now officials in a handful of other states with similar arbitrary requirements are on notice they can no longer perpetuate what amounts to an outrage against the constitution. We’ll see how this ruling affects eight other states with similar laws including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island.”
‘SAF congratulated the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association for its victory, and for its daunting determination to see this battle through to its conclusion. This case was only allowed to be brought because of SAF’s 2010 Supreme Court victory in McDonald v. City of Chicago which overturned that city’s handgun ban and incorporated the Second Amendment to be applied to the states through the 14th Amendment.
“We expect bureaucrats and even judges in various courts to resist today’s ruling,” Gottlieb acknowledged. “Too many of them have resisted and even ignored the Supreme Court Heller and McDonald rulings on Second Amendment rights in the past. We’re putting them on notice we’ll be watching for any such misconduct and we won’t be shy about taking legal action especially if New York City officials adopt near city wide ‘sensitive area’ restrictions making it impossible to carry in New York City.
“This is a clear victory for the Second Amendment and law-abiding gun owners,” he added, “and a staggering defeat for the gun prohibition movement and their billionaire financiers. Elitists who have their personal, armed private security have no business trying to undermine the rights of less-privileged citizens”
So, what does it all mean?
First, similar laws in other states appear to be nullified. Those states are California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, plus the District of Columbia, have analogues to the “proper cause” standard, the opinion notes.
That much seems borne out when Justice Thomas notes on Page 29, “Throughout modern Anglo-American history, the right to keep and bear arms in public has traditionally been subject to well-defined restrictions governing the intent for which one could carry arms, the manner of carry, or the exceptional circumstances under which one could not carry arms. But apart from a handful of late 19th-century jurisdictions, the historical record compiled by respondents does not demonstrate a tradition of broadly prohibiting the public carry of commonly used firearms for self-defense. Nor is there any such historical tradition limiting public carry only to those law-abiding citizens who demonstrate a special need for self-defense. We conclude that respondents have failed to meet their burden to identify an American tradition justifying New York’s proper cause requirement. Under Heller’s text-and-history standard, the proper cause requirement is therefore unconstitutional.”
Finally, on Page 51, Thomas writes, “The historical evidence from antebellum America does demonstrate that the manner of public carry was subject to reasonable regulation. Under the common law, individuals could not carry deadly weapons in a manner likely to terrorize others. Similarly, although surety statutes did not directly restrict public carry, they did provide financial incentives for responsible arms carrying. Finally, States could lawfully eliminate one kind of public carry—concealed carry—so long as they left open the option to carry openly.”
That paragraph sends a signal anti-gunners will definitely dislike.
The ruling will take some time to fully digest, and it will give gun prohibitionists a case of heartburn, but for now, the Supreme Court has demolished the argument that the Second Amendment right to bear arms was confined to the home.
It never was, and New York has been violating the right to bear arms for more than 100 years.
New York’s proper-cause requirement violates the Fourteenth Amendment in that it prevents law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to keep and bear arms. We therefore reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
This historic decision will be talked about and debated for years to come.