June 23, 2022
By Keith Wood
In a long-anticipated move, on June 23, 2022, the United States Supreme Court ruled on New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, a case that challenged the Empire State’s longstanding and highly-restrictive concealed carry law. In a 6-3 opinion, the Supreme Court ruled that New York’s 1913 law violated both the Second and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. In doing so, the Court has paved the way to dismantle every similar “may-issue” carry law in the nation. This is the Supreme Court decision that gun rights advocates have waited decades, even centuries for. To say that this opinion is a game-changer is a gross understatement.
The facts of the case were pretty simple: two law-abiding New Yorkers applied for carry permits and were denied by the state because they did not meet the nebulous “proper cause” requirement of the statute. An applicant satisfies the “proper cause” requirement only if he can “demonstrate a special need for self-protection distinguishable from that of the general community.” With support from the state’s NRA affiliate, the two New Yorkers challenged the state’s decision all the way to the highest court in the land. During oral arguments the majority of the Court seemed highly-skeptical of the state’s arguments, leading many observers to believe that they would overturn the law. They did.
In a majority opinion penned by Justice Clarence Thomas, the Court ruled that “New York’s proper-cause requirement violates the Fourteenth Amendment by preventing law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms in public for self-defense.” The Court made it clear that the Second Amendment’s protections don’t cease when you leave your home. “Nothing in the Second Amendment’s text draws a home/public distinction with respect to the right to keep and bear arms, and the definition of ‘bear’ naturally encompasses public carry.” Justice Thomas wrote, “Moreover, the Second Amendment guarantees an ‘individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation…and confrontation can surely take place outside the home.’” With violent crime surging and 488 murders in New York City in 2021 alone, the threat of a “confrontation” is not a hypothetical one in The Big Apple.
Not only did the Court effectively throw the stringent requirement in New York law, they also dismantled the existing system for determining the constitutionality of gun control laws. In my view, this is the more significant victory. “Since Heller and McDonald, the Courts of Appeals have developed a ‘two-step’ framework for analyzing Second Amendment challenges that combines history with means-end scrutiny. The Court rejects that two-part approach as having one step too many,” the opinion states. It goes on to say that “Step one is broadly consistent with Heller, which demands a test rooted in the Second Amendment’s text, as informed by history. But Heller and McDonald do not support a second step that applies means-end scrutiny in the Second Amendment context.” No longer will courts be able to say “yes, this law probably violates the Constitution but the ends justify the means”. Thanks to this case, the Second Amendment is no longer a second-class right. This is huge.
If the entire opinion had to be summed up in a single paragraph, it would be this one, “The exercise of other constitutional rights does not require individuals to demonstrate to government officers some special need. The Second Amendment right to carry arms in public for self- defense is no different. New York’s proper-cause requirement violates the Fourteenth Amendment by preventing law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to keep and bear arms in public.” Mic drop.
So, what does this mean for other states with similar laws? In my view, the nine states with “may-issue” laws on the books will be forced to adopt a “shall-issue” system. They will no doubt make it as administratively cumbersome as possible to obtain a permit, but they will have to issue them nonetheless. The Left is predictably melting down and elected officials have already dragged out the tired “blood in the streets” scare tactics that we saw each time a state considered passing shall-issue or permitless concealed carry legislation. They were wrong then and they’re wrong now. The Court seems to agree that making much of the public helpless in the face of violent crime is not an effective or constitutionally appropriate means to prevent it.
My list of favorite Barack Obama quotes is pretty short, but his statement that “elections have consequences,” seems quite poignant today. A great number of voters cast their ballot for Donald Trump in 2016 on a single-issue basis. Everyone knew that the next President would get to make at least two and as many as three nominations to the Supreme Court. As it turned out, President Trump made three such appointments: Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Coney Barrett. These three jurists made up half of the justices that supported the majority opinion. In other words, this case was decided by justices that were nominated by President Trump. Say what you will about Trump’s presidency, the fact is that we would not be celebrating this victory if Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 election.
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