A Supreme Court ruling issued today, which deals with the right to hold firearms in public, is a major victory for gun rights advocates.
Rasti, New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, most important to gun rights in 14 years, amends a centuries-old regulation in New York that restricts secret transportation permits only to those who show “proper cause.” With today’s decision, citizens are likely to no longer need to prove a specific requirement to obtain a permit, potentially increasing the public prevalence of firearms in New York, including in crowded city spaces. The decision comes at a time of heightened concern about gun violence across the country, following a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that has prompted Congress to work on bipartisan federal gun control legislation for the first time in 30 years.
“We conclude that the state licensing regime violates the Constitution,” said Judge Clarence Thomas.
The Supreme Court rarely deals with weapons matters. The last was the year 2008 DC vs. Hellera monumental case in which judges divided and defined the text of the Second Amendment, finally deciding that the centuries-old amendment guarantees all Americans the right to own firearms, particularly for self-defense within the home.
This case goes further, addressing public transfer. He ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, who were denied possession of concealed licenses by New York State police. New York is one of only eight states with “can issue” rules, meaning that the state decides whether someone is eligible for a concealed transportation permit, based on personal circumstances. Seventeen states will “issue”, meaning that one permit is only guaranteed after a few minor checks, and the other 25 do not require a permit at all. It remains to be seen whether this decision forces other states to change their laws.
In the decision, the Court notes that there is no difference in the text of the Second Amendment between the house and public spaces when it comes to the right to self-defense. “The definition of ‘bear’ naturally includes public transference,” he says. If the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to self-defense in the event of a confrontation, “the confrontation can certainly take place outside the home.”
The ruling came after oral debates last fall, when Conservative judges suggested the right to self-defense in New York. Chief Justice John Roberts proposed that a crowded urban area is precisely the place needed for self-defense, more so than rural areas. “Well, how many robberies happen in the woods?” he asked. Judge Samuel Alito specifically mentioned the subway as a place where individuals should be protected.
The decision will still allow some spaces to be unarmed. These “sensitive places,” a term coined in the Heller case, include schools and government buildings, but specifically states that calling all of Manhattan a “sensitive place” just because it is crowded is not legitimate. The decision does not mention any other sensitive locations, including, most importantly, the subway.
In April, an assailant fired a firearm at a Brooklyn subway passenger car, injuring 29. Gun rights advocates argue that more people carrying guns could help prevent such incidents. However, the NRA-favored “good guy with guns” theory has been refuted in the last two mass shootings: in Buffalo, where the gunman shot and killed an armed security guard; and in Uvalde, where armed police officers failed to enter the Robb Elementary School building for more than an hour. Recent data show that police shot the attacker in only 98 of the 433 active attacker sample situations.
Weapons security advocates condemned the decision, predicting it would make public places more dangerous. Although there is no database that tracks gun crimes by undercover license holders, states with more guns generally have more gun deaths. Gun violence has also increased in New York during the pandemic; in the first half of 2021, there were more shots in New York City than in the previous decade.
“Young people will die as a result of the Court ruling,” March For Our Lives, a student-led organization that supports stricter gun rules, said in a statement. “The Supreme Court had a chance to prove that our lives were worth the full protection of the law, but, instead, they became another institution that values guns over the American people.”