BY JESSICA GRESKO
WASHINGTON (AP) — In a significant extension of gun rights following a series of mass shootings, the Supreme Court on Thursday declared that Americans have the right to carry firearms in public in self-defense, a decision that will likely result in more people are legally armed. The decision came as Congress and the states debated gun control laws.
About a quarter of the US population lives in states expected to be impacted by the ruling that struck down a New York gun law. The Supreme Court’s first major gun decision in more than a decade split the court 6-3, with the court’s conservatives in the majority and liberals dissenting.
Across the street from the courthouse, Capitol lawmakers rushed to pass gun laws sparked by recent massacres in Texas, New York and California. The senators cleared the way for the measure, which is modest in scope but still the most far-reaching in decades.
Also on Thursday, underscoring the nation’s deep divisions over the issue, the sister of a 9-year-old girl killed in the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, asked state legislatures to pass gun laws. The Republican-controlled Legislature has eliminated gun restrictions for the past decade.
President Joe Biden said in a statement he was “deeply disappointed” by the Supreme Court’s ruling. It “contradicts both common sense and the Constitution and should concern us all deeply,” he said.
He urged states to pass new laws. “I am calling on Americans across the country to make their voices heard on gun safety. Lives are at stake,” he said.
The decision overturned a New York law that requires people to demonstrate a special need to carry a gun in order to receive a license to carry a concealed gun in public. The judges said this requirement violated the Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms.”
Judge Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority that the Constitution “protects a person’s right to carry a pistol outside the home in self-defense.” This right is not a “second-class right,” wrote Thomas. “We are not aware of any other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating a special need to government officials.”
California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island have similar laws to New York. These laws are expected to be challenged quickly.
Gov. Kathy Hochul, DN.Y., said the ruling came at a particularly painful time as New York is mourning the deaths of 10 people in a shooting at a Buffalo supermarket. “This decision is not just reckless. It’s reprehensible. That’s not what New Yorkers want,” she said.
Gun control groups called the decision a significant setback. Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice and an expert on the Second Amendment, wrote on Twitter that the Supreme Court’s decision could be the “largest gun rights expansion” in US history.
Republican lawmakers were among those who hailed the decision. Tom King, president of the suing New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, said he was relieved.
“New York State’s lawful and legal gun owners will no longer be prosecuted by laws that have nothing to do with people’s safety and will do nothing to make people safer,” he said. “And maybe now we’ll start prosecuting criminals and perpetrators of these heinous acts.”
The court’s decision is somewhat outside of public opinion. About half of voters in the 2020 presidential election said gun laws in the United States should be tightened, according to AP VoteCast, a comprehensive poll of voters. Another third said the laws should remain as they are, while only about 1 in 10 said gun laws should be relaxed.
About 8 in 10 Democratic voters said gun laws should be made stricter, VoteCast showed. Among Republican voters, about half said the laws should be kept, while the other half are divided between stricter and less strict ones.
In a dissent shared by his Liberal peers, Justice Stephen Breyer focused on the gun toll.
Since the beginning of this year, “277 mass shootings have already been reported — an average of more than one a day,” Breyer wrote. Most of his colleagues accused him of acting “without considering the potentially deadly consequences” of their decision. He said the ruling would put a “severe strain” on states’ efforts to pass laws “that restrict in various ways who may purchase, carry or use firearms of various kinds.”
Several other conservative judges, who aligned with Thomas’ majority opinion, also wrote separately to add their views.
Judge Samuel Alito criticized Breyer’s disagreement and questioned the relevance of his discussion of mass shootings and other gun death statistics. Alito wrote that the court “ruled nothing about who may lawfully own a firearm or what requirements must be met to purchase a gun” and nothing “about the types of firearms people are permitted to possess.”
“Today, unfortunately, many Americans have good reason to fear that if they fail to protect themselves, they will become victims.” The Second Amendment, he said, “guarantees them the right to do so.”
Judge Brett Kavanaugh, along with Chief Justice John Roberts, pointed out the limitations of the decision. States can still require people to obtain a license to carry a gun, Kavanaugh wrote, and that license includes, among other things, “fingerprinting, a background check, a mental health record check, and training in firearms handling and laws governing the use of.” There are other possible requirements that depend on violence.”
Supporters of the New York law had argued that removing it would lead to more guns in the streets and higher rates of violent crime. Gun violence, which has increased during the coronavirus pandemic, has increased again. Gun purchases have also increased.
In most countries, gun owners have little trouble carrying their guns legally in public. But that had been more difficult in New York and the few states with similar laws. New York law, in effect since 1913, states that in order to be allowed to carry a concealed handgun in public, a person applying for a license must show “proper reason”, a special necessity to carry the weapon .
The state had issued unrestricted licenses that allowed a person to carry a gun anywhere, and restricted licenses that allowed a person to carry the gun but only for specific purposes such as hunting and target shooting, or to and from their place of business.
The challenge to the New York law was brought forward by the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, which bills itself as the nation’s oldest firearms advocacy group, and two men who sought unrestricted ability to carry guns outside their homes.
Most recently, the Supreme Court issued an important gun decision in 2010. In that decision and a 2008 ruling, the judges established a statewide right to keep a self-defense weapon at home. The question for the court this time was only about carrying a gun outside the home. Thomas, who turned 74 on Thursday, wrote in his statement: “Nothing in the text of the Second Amendment distinguishes between home and public in relation to the right to own and bear arms.”
Associated Press reporters Mark Sherman, Hannah Fingerhut, and Zeke Miller in Washington and Michael Hill in East Greenbush, New York, contributed to this report.
https://www.greeleytribune.com/2022/06/23/supreme-court-expands-gun-rights-with-nation-divided/ Supreme Court expands gun rights, nation divided – Greeley Tribune