Supreme Court to hear New York gun licensing law case, with many more states waiting to see outcome

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WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court is preparing to hear a gun rights case that could lead to more guns on the streets of New York and Los Angeles and threaten to restrict guns on subways, airports, bars, churches, schools and other places where people congregate.

The case judges will hear on Wednesday comes as gun violence has increased, and it could dramatically increase the number of people eligible to carry guns in their daily lives. The case centers on New York’s restrictive gun licensing law and whether abusers of the law have the right to carry a gun in public in self-defense.

Gun control groups say if a high court ruling forces states to drop the restrictions, the result will be more violence. Gun rights groups, meanwhile, say the risk of a confrontation is precisely why they have the right to be armed in self-defense.

Gun rights advocates are hoping the court with a Tory 6-3 majority is ready to side with them. They want the court to say that New York law is too restrictive, just like similar laws in other states. Gun control advocates admit that the composition of the tribunal worries them about the outcome.

“The stakes really couldn’t be higher,” said Jonathan Lowy, chief counsel for the Brady Gun Control Group.

The court last issued important rulings on gun rights in 2008 and 2010. These rulings established a national right to keep a gun in the home for self-defense. The question for the court now is whether there is a right similar to the Second Amendment to carry a firearm in public.

This is not a problem in most countries, where gun owners have little difficulty legally carrying their guns when they go out. But about half a dozen states, including populous California and several eastern states, limit the carrying of weapons to those who can demonstrate a special need to do so. Judges could decide whether these laws, “may enact” laws, can be upheld.

The fact that the High Court hears a gun rights case is a change after years of consistently denying them. A gun case judges agreed to hear ended anticlimactically in 2020 when judges dismissed the case.

But after the death of Liberal Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg last year and her replacement by Conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett, the court agreed to return to the gun debate.

Eric Tirschwell, general counsel for Everytown for Gun Safety, said there was “reason to be concerned” for groups like his that “a type of law that was not of interest or was not willing to look into the past, they are now “.

The New York law the court is reviewing has been in effect since 1913 and says that in order to carry a handgun concealed in public in self-defense, a person applying for a license must show “good cause,” a real need to carry the handgun. ‘armed. . When local authorities issue a firearms license, it is either unlimited – allowing the person to carry a firearm anywhere that is not otherwise prohibited by law – or restricted, allowing the person to carry a firearm in certain circumstances. This could include carrying a firearm for hunting or target shooting, when traveling for work, or when in the backcountry.

The New York State Rifle & Pistol Association and two individuals challenging the law told the Supreme Court that it “effectively makes it impossible for an ordinary law-abiding citizen to obtain a license to carry a handgun in self-defense.”

Lawyers for the group say the text of the Second Amendment, along with history and tradition, supports their argument that there is a right to carry a gun outside the home. The group also claims that New York’s law has discriminatory origins, that it was originally intended to give authorities wide leeway to keep guns out of the hands of newly arrived immigrants from Europe, especially Italians. .

New York, for its part, denies this and says the Second Amendment allows states to restrict the carrying of weapons in public. It also refers to the history, tradition and text of the Second Amendment. The state says its restrictions promote public safety, citing research that indicates that places that restrict the public carrying of weapons have lower rates of gun-related homicides and other violent crimes. New York says its law is not an outright ban on carrying weapons but a more moderate restriction.

Tom King, president of the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, said in an interview that part of the problem with New York law is that the chances of a person getting an unrestricted license depend on their situation in a rural area or more urban area of ​​the state.

Gun rights and gun control advocates say it’s unclear to what extent the court might be willing to rule and that they will be watching arguments closely for clues, especially those of the three new members of the tribunal.

The three people named by former President Donald Trump – Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Barrett – are Tories but were not on the ground when judges last made major rulings on gun rights . However, their actions so far have given gun rights advocates cause for hope.

In 2011, as an appeals court judge, Kavanaugh argued in a dissent that the District of Columbia’s ban on semi-automatic rifles and its gun registration requirement were unconstitutional. Last year, he urged the court to deal with another gun case soon, expressing concern that lower courts were not following Supreme Court precedents.

Gorsuch, for his part, is said to have decided on the 2020 gun case that his colleagues have thrown out. And Barrett, as an appeals court judge, wrote in dissent that a conviction for a non-violent felony shouldn’t automatically prevent someone from owning a gun; she said her colleagues treated the Second Amendment as a “second class right”.

Gun control groups are hoping, however, that the Conservatives could still vote to uphold New York’s law. A group of prominent conservatives, including former Federal Court of Appeal Judge J. Michael Luttig, urged the court to do so in a court brief. And earlier this year, in a 7-4 decision, justices of the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals dismissed a challenge to Hawaii’s permit regulations. Conservative Judge Jay Bybee wrote that “a review of over 700 years of English and American legal history reveals a strong theme: the government has the power to regulate guns in the public arena.”

The court’s three liberal judges are generally expected to side with New York.

Depending on what the judges ultimately say, the laws of other states could be affected as well. The Biden administration, which urges judges to uphold New York law, said California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island all have similar laws. Connecticut and Delaware also have “may issue” laws, although they are somewhat different.

Jessica Gresko of The Associated Press wrote this story.

Following:

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