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Supreme Court overturns New York law on carrying concealed weapons

​The Supreme Court struck down New York’s century-old law restricting the carrying of concealed firearms Thursday, its first major Second Amendment decision in more than a decade and a ruling that could lead to more weapons on the streets, as well as subways, churches, bars, airports and just about anywhere people gather.

Writing for a 6-3 court, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that “when the Second Amendment’s plain text covers an individual’s conduct, the Constitution presumptively protects that conduct.

To justify its regulation, the government may not simply posit that the regulation promotes an important interest,” Thomas added. “Rather, the government must demonstrate that the regulation is consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.

The ruling could also affect similar “may issue” laws in New Jersey, California, Maryland, Hawaii and Massachusetts.​​

​The New York state law, on the books since 1913, requires that a person who wants a license to carry a handgun in public show “proper cause” that the weapon is ​specifically needed for self-defense rather than a desire to protect themselves or their property.

The New York State Rifle and Pistol Association and two Upstate men sued, claiming the law violated their Second Amendment rights.

Paul Clement, the lawyer representing the association, told the justices during oral arguments last November that his clients are seeking “nothing more than their fellow citizens in 43 other states already enjoy.”

“Carrying a firearm outside the home is a fundamental constitutional right. It is not some extraordinary action that requires an extraordinary demonstration of need,” he said at the time.

The 1913 New York law states that people need to show “proper cause” in order to get a license to carry a gun in public.
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Some of the conservative justices, including Brett Kavanaugh, appeared to side with that argument.

“Why isn’t it good enough to say, I live in a violent area and I want to be able to defend myself? … If it’s the discretion of an individual officer, that seems inconsistent with an objective constitutional right,” Kavanaugh said during oral arguments last November.

New York Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul have feared that an unfavorable ruling would lead to more people carrying weapons in public even as gun violence has surged amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayor Eric Adams said he is concerned about the ruling amid the surge in gun violence in New York City.
Mayor Eric Adams said he is concerned about the ruling amid the surge in gun violence in New York City.

“It keeps me up at night,” Adams told WABC-TV in an interview Sunday. “We have some of the most stringent gun permitting laws. … I’m extremely concerned about this. My legal team is now communicating with other cities and states to determine how do we come together to be prepared for this ruling.”

Thursday’s decision was the first major Second Amendment ruling by the court since 2010, when the court ruled 5-4 that the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms applied to the states via the 14th Amendment.

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