It’s been two weeks since the June 23rd Supreme Court ruling on New York Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen came out. This is the court’s first major ruling on firearms in over a decade, and we’re going to break down what the ruling means and what has happened since it came out.
The Decision Itself
At its core, the Bruen decision declares for the first time that carrying a handgun for self-defense is a constitutional right. The case was brought to the Supreme Court after a challenge to a nearly 110 year old New York state gun law that created limits on carrying concealed handguns outside the home.
Under the law, applicants for concealed carry permits needed to demonstrate “proper cause,” or a particular need for carrying a gun in order to get their permit. This particular need element of the law was often vague, leaving it up to New York officials to judge whether or not an applicant’s reason had merit. Self-defense or the protection of property were not always accepted as a strong enough cause.
The court found that the law violated a person’s right to “keep and bear arms” under the Second Amendment. In his opinion on the decision, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the New York state statute did not in fact define proper cause to the point where it could be used as a restriction on obtaining a concealed carry permit.
The attorney general of New York state argued that the right to bear arms must refer to current conditions, saying that there was no historical basis for dealing with violence in “sensitive places.” Justice Thomas responded, “There is no historical basis for New York to declare the island of Manhattan a sensitive place simply because it is crowded and protected generally by the New York Police Department.”
Justice Brett Kavanaugh also added that the ruling would not restrict states from setting requirements to obtain a concealed carry permit, including fingerprinting, background checks, mental health records checks, and firearms training. It would only address those states with unusually strict licensing policies.
States with unusually strict laws similar to New York’s included California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. Many of these laws were quickly challenged following the Supreme Court ruling.
Supporters of this ruling celebrated the fact that it removed some of the barriers for law-abiding citizens to pursue concealed carry as a means of self-defense.
Dissent in the Court
The Supreme Court’s final ruling was 6-3, with Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor joining together for a dissenting opinion.
In the opinion, they cited 45,222 Americans killed by firearms in the US in 2020, mass shootings in 2022, and how gun violence is currently the leading cause of death for children and adolescents. This new ruling, they worried, would impact individual states’ abilities to regulate guns for safety purposes.
Justice Samuel Alito rebutted these concerns by asking whether stronger gun laws are a proven method of preventing instances of gun violence like mass shootings.
New York Responds
Following the Supreme Court’s decision, New York responded by revising the state’s gun legislature, increasing the requirements to qualify for a concealed carry permit and restricting where firearms can be carried in the state.
The bill, signed by Governor Kathy Hochul, mandates 16 hours of in-person firearms training, including two hours of live-fire training, sets more stringent gun storage requirements, and expands on the list of convictions that can bar someone from receiving a concealed carry permit.
However, there are two additions to the bill that concern some New Yorkers and Second Amendment supporters. The first is the requirement of an in-person interview, four character references, and the overturning of all social media channels as a part of a “good moral character” check. Some worry that this requirement, especially where it pertains to social media, may cross into infringement on First Amendment rights to freedom of speech.
The law also designates almost all public areas as “sensitive locations” where it will now be a felony to carry a firearm. This list includes but is not limited to government buildings, mass transit, parks, schools/educational institutions, healthcare facilities, polling places, Times Square, and anywhere children are present. Governor Hochul said that private properties would also be default no-carry zones unless designated as firearm friendly by a sign in the window.
Response on the National Stage
Immediately following the Supreme Court Decision, President Joe Biden said he was “deeply disappointed” by the Supreme Court ruling and called on states to pass new laws to regulate guns.
Congress responded to both this ruling and recent mass shootings by quickly passing the most far-reaching gun legislation in decades. The Safer Communities Act, signed into law by the President on June 25th, had bipartisan support.
The bill enhances background checks for gun buyers under 21 and incentivizes states to pass red flag laws by offering funding. Red flag laws allow people besides police (such as family members) to petition courts to have guns taken away or prevent an individual from buying guns if they are believed to be a danger to themselves or others. It addresses closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole” as well. This is a gap in federal law that has allowed married domestic abusers to lose gun rights but not unmarried ones.
It is important to note that the Safer Communities Act also provides funding for youth mental health programs and enhanced school security, which was championed even by those who didn’t necessarily agree with other provisions in the bill.
What does this mean for me?
Laws are still in flux following this ruling, especially in those states that were formerly designated as “may-issue.” We are continuing to monitor these changes as they happen and update our state reciprocity and law pages in real time.
By now have you decided that it’s time to get a concealed carry permit in your state? Click here to find a Concealed Coalition training session near you to start on your journey!
*Sources: supremecourt.gov, cityandstateny.com, bloomberg.com, apnews.com, ballotpedia.org, foxnews.com, CNN.com