U.S. Supreme Court justices signaled they are poised to rule that most people have a constitutional right to carry a handgun outside the home, casting doubt on a New York law that requires a special justification to get a permit.
Hearing arguments in Washington Wednesday, the court’s six conservatives indicated they will back a
“Why isn’t it good enough to say I live in a violent area, and I want to be able to defend myself?” asked Justice
A broad ruling could mean more guns in public places in some of the most populous U.S. cities, including New York and Los Angeles. New York is one of about seven states -- including California, Massachusetts and New Jersey -- with so-called “may issue” laws that gun-rights advocates say prevent most people from getting a carry license. Illinois and the District of Columbia also had sharp restrictions before their laws were invalidated in court.
Two other conservatives suggested they would leave room for states to bar guns from “sensitive places.” Justice
But Roberts pushed back when New York Solicitor General
Muggings in the Forest
“If the purpose of the Second Amendment is to allow people to protect themselves, that’s implicated when you’re in a high-crime area,” Roberts said. “It’s not implicated when you’re out in the woods.”
He added, “How many muggings take place in the forest?”
Everytown for Gun Safety, which advocates for universal background checks and gun-safety measures, is backed by Michael Bloomberg, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent company Bloomberg LP. The group filed a brief at the Supreme Court supporting the New York restrictions.
New York requires applicants to show “proper cause” to get a concealed-carry license. Although the statute doesn’t define that phrase, state court rulings have said applicants must show a need for self-protection that distinguishes them from the general public. The law gives local officials broad discretion to decide whether the standard has been met. The state generally forbids open carry of handguns.
New York, backed by the
“For centuries, English and American law have imposed limits on carrying firearms in public in the interest of public safety,” Underwood argued. Justice Department lawyer
They got support from the court’s three liberal justices.
“I don’t know how I get past all that history, without you sort of making it up and saying there’s a right to control states that has never been exercised in the entire history of the United States,” Justice
The Supreme Court has never said whether the Second Amendment protects rights outside the home.
“Carrying a firearm outside the home is a fundamental constitutional right,” Clement argued. “It is not some extraordinary action that requires an extraordinary demonstration of need.”
The court is hearing an appeal by the NRA-affiliated New York State Rifle & Pistol Association and residents Robert Nash and Brandon Koch, who both live in Rensselaer County. The two men both got licenses to carry handguns in some circumstances, including hunting and target practice, but were denied an unrestricted right to carry.
New York’s carry restrictions date back more than a century. The state first required people to have a license for firearms with a 1911 statute known as the Sullivan Law, adding the “proper cause” requirement two years later.
The high court has been largely silent on the subject of gun rights since 2010, when it said the Second Amendment covers states and cities, along with the federal government and the District of Columbia. That followed a 2008 ruling that for the first time said people have a constitutional right to keep a handgun at home for self-defense purposes.
Gun-rights advocates have been
The court is scheduled to rule by late June in the case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, 20-843.
(Updates with excerpts from argument starting in fifth paragraph.)
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