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Supreme Court Overturns N.Y. Gun Law, Expands Concealed Carry

In a 6-3 ruling Thursday, the Supreme Court overturned a century-old law in New York state, citing it as a violation of the Second Amendment. The outcome could influence gun laws currently on the books in other states.

(TNS) — WASHINGTON — In a landmark ruling expanding gun rights in America, the Supreme Court on Thursday overturned a century-old New York state law strictly limiting who can carry a pistol in public, saying the measure is a clear violation of the Second Amendment's guarantee of the right to keep and bear arms.

"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," wrote Justice Clarence Thomas in his opinion for the court.

The 6-3 opinion comes in the wake of mass shootings in Buffalo and Texas carried out by gunmen with assault rifles. The ruling almost certainly means there will be a proliferation of guns on the streets of a nation where gun ownership is already about four times as high as it is in many Western nations. What's more, it's likely to mean more guns in New York State, which ranks near the bottom of the nation's rankings in gun ownership.

At issue in the case was a 1911 state law requiring that individuals show "proper cause" before being given a permit allowing them to carry a pistol outside their home. Similar statutes are on the books in seven other states: California, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

Now, though, those states will have to rewrite their gun laws to comply with the Supreme Court's decision. Gov. Kathy Hochul has already said that she would push for such a revision if the high court were to rule that the state's current gun permitting law is unconstitutional.

"I'm prepared to call back the legislators to deal with this," Hochul said this morning, terming the ruling "shocking, absolutely shocking."

"We are not going to cede our rights that easily besides the best efforts of the politicized efforts of the United States Supreme Court," Hochul added.

In issuing the decision, the justices essentially added a new layer of legal interpretation to a decision it issued in 2008. In that case, District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court ruled for the first time that the Second Amendment guarantees Americans the right to keep guns for protection in their homes.

While that decision addressed the right to keep arms, the ruling the high court issued on Thursday makes clear that Americans have the right to bear those arms in public.

"The Second Amendment guaranteed to 'all Americans' the right to bear commonly used arms in public subject to certain reasonable, well-defined restrictions," Thomas wrote for the court. "Those restrictions, for example, limited the intent for which one could carry arms, the manner by which one carried arms, or the exceptional circumstances under which one could not carry arms, such as before justices of the peace and other government officials."

The court's six conservative justices signed the opinion, while its three liberals did not.

And Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a stinging dissent.

"Because I cannot agree with the Court's decision to strike New York's law down without allowing for discovery or the development of any evidentiary record, without considering the State's compelling interest in preventing gun violence and protecting the safety of its citizens, and without considering the potentially deadly consequences of its decision, I respectfully dissent," Breyer wrote.

The case, New York Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, pitted gun rights advocates against the many gun control groups and blue-state legal officials who argued that expanding the right to bear arms would mean more gunfire on the nation's streets.

While the ruling in the case is the most important that the high court has issued since 2008, it's by no means the last word on exactly what the Second Amendment means.

The court opinion does not specifically define how far states can go in trying to regulate the right to bear arms in public. And as a result, progressive-leaning states such as New York are likely to pass new regulations that try to comply with the ruling while also limiting precisely where people can carry guns in public.

Legal experts expect that those new state laws will prompt a flurry of new lawsuits from gun rights enthusiasts, meaning that the ruling in the case from New York may not be the Supreme Court's last word on the issue.

But under the high court ruling Thursday, any new state gun laws will have to be "consistent with this Nation's historical tradition of firearm regulation," Thomas wrote.

©2022 The Buffalo News (Buffalo, N.Y.)