WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court said on Thursday that Americans have the right to bear guns in public, a major expansion of gun rights.
The judges’ 6-3 decision follows a string of recent mass shootings, and is expected to eventually allow more people to legally carry guns on the streets of the nation’s largest cities — including New York, Los Angeles and Boston — and elsewhere. About a quarter of the US population lives in states expected to be affected by the ruling, the first major Supreme Court decision on guns in more than a decade.
The ruling comes as Congress is actively working on firearms legislation in the wake of recent mass shootings in Texas, New York and California.
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote to a majority that the constitution protects “the individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.”
In their decision, the judges struck down a New York law requiring people to demonstrate a certain need to carry a handgun in order to obtain a license to carry it in public. The judges said the requirement violated the Second Amendment’s right to “keep and bear arms.”
Similar laws exist in California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. The Biden administration had urged judges to support the New York law.
In an opposition joined by his fellow liberals, Justice Stephen Breyer focused on the toll gun violence takes. “Since the beginning of this year alone (2022), 277 mass shootings have been reported – an average of more than one shooting per day,” Breyer wrote.
Supporters of the New York law argued that dropping it would eventually lead to more guns on the streets and higher rates of violent crime. The decision comes at a time when gun violence has already escalated during the coronavirus pandemic.
In most parts of the country, gun owners have little legal difficulty in carrying their guns in public. But it was difficult to do in New York and a few states with similar laws. New York law, which has been in place since 1913, states that in order to carry a concealed handgun in public, a person applying for a license must show a “proper reason,” i.e. a specific need to carry the gun.
The state issues unrestricted licenses where a person can carry their gun anywhere and restricted licenses allow a person to carry a gun but only for specific purposes such as hunting and shooting at a target or to and from their place of work.
The Supreme Court made the last significant decision on guns in 2010. In that decision and one from 2008, the justices established a nationwide right to keep a gun at home for self-defense. This time the court’s question was about carrying someone out of the house.