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SCOTUS Rules Against New York's May-Issue Permit Policy: Big Win for Gun Rights 

In a much-anticipated decision, the Supreme Court sided with the New York Rifle & Pistol Association and determined that the state's requirement for “proper cause” was unconstitutional.

SCOTUS Rules Against New York's May-Issue Permit Policy: Big Win for Gun Rights 

(Bob Korn photo / Shutterstock)

The fact that the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to hear a 2nd Amendment case in April 2021 was unexpected. The case of New York Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen would become the first gun-rights case brought before the nation’s highest court in more than a decade. Previously, the most recent cases were the pair of landmark decisions in 2008’s District of Columbia v. Heller and 2010’s McDonald v. Chicago. The latest result, likes its predecessors, reinforces the individual right own and carry a firearm for lawful purposes, including self-protection outside the home.

Siding 6-3 with the plaintiffs, the Court agreed that New York’s requirement that applicants provide “proper cause” to obtain a concealed carry permit was unduly restrictive. Put another way, it was determined that the state’s regulations could have the effect of granting permits only to those who could demonstrate special or unusual needs or circumstances. They also allowed individual permitting officials latitude to interpret and evaluate applications in a subjective manner. The court found that such requirements and inconsistencies run counter to the intent of the 2nd Amendment.

Justice Clarence Thomas authored the Court’s opinion, “In this case, petitioners and respondents agree that ordinary, law-abiding citizens have a similar right to carry handguns publicly for their self-defense. 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." Despite those areas of agreement however, the Court recognized that those rights were not, in practice, able to be exercised equally by the state’s citizenry. "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."

In short, the right to own firearms for personal protection applies to all law-abiding citizens. The right is guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution, and has now been reinforced by three consecutive Supreme Court decisions.


The decision is a win for gun-rights advocates and sets a new precedent in the argument between “shall-issue” jurisdictions – which must issue carry permits to any qualified citizen – versus “may-issue” locales, like New York, that allow issuing officials more discretion.


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