Supreme Court conservatives skeptical of New York concealed handgun restrictions

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  • The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a Second Amendment dispute that could have a major impact on state rules for carrying concealed firearms outside the home.
  • Chief Justice John Roberts questioned New York Solicitor General Barbara Underwood, who was arguing in defense of the law, about who was more likely to be granted a concealed-carry license in the state.
  • Some conservatives in the court also questioned where the government could limit the carrying of firearms in public without violating the constitution.

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A conservative majority of the Supreme Court on Wednesday banned the carrying of concealed guns outside a New York home in what they deemed the most important Second Amendment case in more than a decade.

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The case, New York Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, could have a major impact on state regulations for carrying firearms outside the home. Gun-rights supporters hope the court will overturn a lower court ruling upholding a century-old New York law that allowed public licenses to carry concealed carry handguns. at least seven other states similar concealed-carry restrictions.

Chief Justice John Roberts questioned New York Solicitor General Barbara Underwood, who was arguing in defense of the law, about who was more likely to be granted a concealed-carry license in the state.

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Underwood said that such licenses are more readily available in sardine-packed metropolitan areas than in lower-density parts of the state, with Roberts asking how this aligns with the court’s example that the main purpose of the Second Amendment is self-defense. Is.

“How much loot is there in the forest?” He asked.

Underwood replied, “I agree with you that the city has a different risk, but also a different public safety.”

Some of the court’s conservatives were more clearly sympathetic to the wider application of the Second Amendment to the case.

“All these people have illegal guns [in the city]”They’re in the subway, they’re roaming the streets,” Justice Samuel Alito said, “but the normal, hardworking, law-abiding people I mentioned – no, they can’t be armed.”

For people applying for a concealed-carry license, “Why isn’t it enough to say, ‘I live in a violent area and I want to defend myself’?” Justice Brett Kavanaugh asked. If the ability to publicly carry a gun is up to the discretion of the licensing officer, “it seems inconsistent with an objective constitutional right,” he said.

But some conservatives on the court also needed Paul Clement, an attorney for the gun-rights group and two of its members, to set limits on where the government could carry firearms in public without violating the constitution.

“What kind of place do you think they can be kept out of?” Roberts asked, citing examples such as bars, university campuses or football stadiums. Clement suggested that these situations should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

“I think it’s about a level of mediocrity,” Justice Amy Connie Barrett, the newest member of the court and former President Donald Trump’s third conservative appointee, said during Clement’s arguments. He asked if concealed carry guns could be banned from Times Square on New Year’s Eve.

Clement argued, “At the end of the day, I think giving someone a constitutional right means they don’t have to satisfy a government official that they have a really good need to exercise it.”

Justice Stephen Breuer, one of three liberals on the court, expressed concerns about easing gun laws affecting crime. “What should we say, in your opinion, that it is going to be clear enough that we will not create a kind of gun-related chaos?” Breyer asked Clement.

Breyer poses that question against the backdrop of a rise in gun violence across the country during the coronavirus pandemic.

The question before the court on Wednesday was whether New York had violated the Second Amendment when it denied concealed applications from state residents because they did not have a “reasonable cause.”

The case was brought by the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association and two of its members, Robert Nash and Brandon Koch, whose applications for concealed-carry handgun licenses for self-defense purposes were rejected.

New York Supreme Court Justice Richard McNally, who handled both requests, ruled that neither of them showed a reasonable reason for carrying guns in public because they failed to show a special need for self-protection.

plaintiff argued that State law governing concealed-carry licenses, which allows them only if “reasonable cause exists for issuing it,” violates the Constitution.

A federal court in New York dismissed the case, and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision.

In their case heard Wednesday, the New York gun group argued that the language of the Second Amendment — “protecting people’s rights to keep and bear arms” — refers to two different rights. They have to be able to fend for themselves in order to “keep” weapons, while being able to “bear” weapons, he argued.

The Supreme Court’s most recent big decision on guns came more than a decade ago District of Columbia vs. Heller, when the court held in a 5-4 decision that the Second Amendment protects the individual right to carry a gun for self-defense inside the home.

Roberts said Heller’s precedent would be “the first thing” to consider when considering the matter. “We, I think, generally don’t reinvent the wheel,” he said.

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