In the tragic aftermath of several mass shootings throughout the country, the United States Supreme Court has issued a 6-3 decision to strike down a 108-year-old New York gun law in a critical Second Amendment case — setting a new precedent for more relaxed gun laws across the nation. The case, New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, dealt with whether New York’s current gun laws violated the constitutional rights of citizens in the state. Here’s what the Supreme Court’s ruling on this critical Second Amendment case means, and how it could affect you.
At the center of the case was a century-old New York gun law that strictly regulated who could obtain a concealed carry license for self defense, and made it a crime to carry a concealed firearm without a license. The law required applicants to show “proper cause” for the license, which New York courts have defined as proving a specific need to defend themselves. So, simply applying for a license as a precaution to “protect themselves or their property” would not suffice, per SCOTUSblog. The court’s six conservative justices voted to strike down the law, with Justice Clarence Thomas delivering the majority opinion in the case.
“Petitioners and respondents agree that ordinary, law-abiding citizens have a similar right to carry handguns publicly for their self-defense,” Thomas wrote in the court’s June 23 opinion. “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 handgun for self-defense outside the home,” he added. The ruling signals a major victory for gun rights activists all over the nation, as states are now no longer allowed to “prevent law-abiding citizens from publicly carrying handguns because they have not demonstrated a special need for self-defense.”
The issue of gun policy in the United States, always a hot-button issue, has gotten even more urgent in recent weeks, following multiple mass shootings around the country. On May 14, a shooter killed 10 people in a Buffalo, New York grocery store, in what authorities later said was an anti-Black hate crime. And on May 24, 19 children and two teachers were shot and killed in their elementary school in Uvalde, Texas — the second-deadliest ever school shooting at a K-12 school in the United States.
Since the 10-year federal ban on the civilian use of assault weapons expired on Sept. 13, 2004, these types of deadly shootings have become more and more common over time: From 2014 to 2020, the number of mass shooting events across the nation increased from 269 to 611, according to recent data collected by the Gun Violence Archive. And in 2022 alone, halfway through the year, the United States has already seen well over 200 mass shootings. “Many States have tried to address some of the dangers of gun violence just described by passing laws that limit, in various ways, who may purchase, carry, or use firearms of different kinds,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in his dissent. “The Court today severely burdens States’ efforts to do so.”
As of June 23, 24 states — including Texas and Tennessee — allow their citizens to carry guns without a permit. Out of those 24 states, nearly all of them are on the list for the highest rates of gun violence in the nation, according to 2020 data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, issued a critical response. “Today's ruling is out of step with the bipartisan majority in Congress that is on the verge of passing significant gun safety legislation, and out of touch with the overwhelming majority of Americans who support gun safety measures,” he wrote in June 23 statement shared with Elite Daily. “Let’s be clear: the Supreme Court got this decision wrong, choosing to put our communities in even greater danger with gun violence on the rise across the country.”