In a key ruling for gun rights, the Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a restrictive New York gun law. The
The 6-3 decision is expected to allow more people to carry guns legally on the streets of large cities like New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere, the Associated Press reports.
About a quarter of the U.S. population lives in states expected to be affected by the ruling, which was the high court’s first major gun decision in more than a decade.
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority that the Constitution protects “an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.”
The justices struck down a New York law requiring people to demonstrate a particular need for carrying a gun in order to get a license to carry one in public. The justices said that requirement violates the Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms.”
California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island all have similar laws likely to be challenged as a result of the ruling. The Biden administration urged the justices to uphold New York’s law.
Backers of New York’s law argued that striking it down would ultimately lead to more guns on the streets and higher rates of violent crime. The decision comes at a time when gun violence already on the rise during the coronavirus pandemic has continued spiking.
In most of the U.S., gun owners have little difficulty legally carrying their weapons in public. That had been harder to do in New York and the handful of states with similar laws. New York’s law, which has been in place since 1913, says that to carry a concealed handgun in public, a person applying for a license has to show “proper cause,” a specific need to carry the weapon.
Dissenting Justice Stephen Breyer said the majority opinion did not sufficiently account for the fact that "gun violence appears to be on the rise"
By 2020, the number of firearm-related deaths in the U.S. had risen to 45,222, or by about 25 percent since 2015, Breyer said. "That means that, in 2020, an average of about 124 people died from gun violence every day."
Justice Samuel Alito, in a concurring opinion, criticized Breyer, saying "it is hard to see what legitimate purpose can possibly be served" by Breyer's discussion of gun violence in the U.S. "Why, for example, does [Breyer] think it is relevant to recount the mass shootings that have occurred in recent years? ...Does [Breyer] think that laws like New York’s prevent or deter such atrocities?"