In a decision that could mark a watershed moment for Second Amendment rights, the Supreme Court has agreed to take a concealed carry case out of New York aimed at striking down the state’s draconian “may issue” policy.
The New York State Rifle & Pistol Association and two New York residents sued the state back in 2018 after one of the petitioners was denied a concealed carry permit for failure to show that he had “good cause” to have one. The case has worked its way through the court system over the past three years, and now it stands a chance of overturning “may-issue” requirements in eight other states.
“Perhaps the single most important unresolved Second Amendment question after this Court’s landmark decisions in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago is whether the Second Amendment secures the individual right to bear arms for self-defense where confrontations often occur outside the home,” the NYSRPA wrote in its petition to the Court.
“The Second Amendment does not exist to protect only the rights of the happy few who distinguish themselves from the body of ‘the people’ through some ‘proper cause.’ To the contrary, the Second Amendment exists to protect the rights of all the people.”
Gun rights groups cheered the decision.
“The Court rarely takes Second Amendment cases. Now it’s decided to hear one of the most critical Second Amendment issues. We’re confident that the Court will tell New York and the other states that our Second Amendment right to defend ourselves is fundamental, and doesn’t vanish when we leave our homes,” said Jason Ouimet, Executive Director of NRA-ILA.
The Second Amendment Foundation also “hailed” the decision as a potential victory for gun rights.
“The entire gun rights community has waited for many years for this news,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb. “A right that exists only in one’s home is not a right at all. We do not limit the right of free speech, or freedom of the press, or the practice of one’s religion, or the right to legal counsel just to someone’s residence. And ultimately, that’s what we’re talking about, constitutionally-protected fundamental rights.”
Gun control groups expressed concern that the Court could strike down concealed carry laws as gun-related violence spikes in cities across the country.
“The stakes are high any time the Supreme Court considers a case about public safety laws, and they’re particularly high now,” said Eric Tirschwell, managing director of Everytown Law.“Gun violence has only worsened during the pandemic, and a ruling that opened the door to weakening our gun laws could make it even harder for cities and states to grapple with this public health crisis.”
At issue is whether the Second Amendment protects law-abiding citizens from state laws that prohibit or restrict carrying firearms outside the home for self-defense. Previous high court decisions have affirmed the individual right to own firearms inside the home, but for many years SCOTUS refused to answer this case’s question.
The change has likely come as the result of the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a Trump appointee. Chief Justice John Roberts is unlikely to side with gun rights proponents, so many believed the four pro-gun judges rejected 2A cases for fear of a victory for the other side. Now that Justice Coney Barrett is on the bench, they have the five votes they need to secure a pro-gun win.
If the Court rules in favor of the petitioners, its decision could strike down laws in nine states that require residents to prove they have a “good cause” to obtain a concealed carry permit. These so-called “may issue” states effectively ban concealed carry for most law-abiding residents because they require proof of an immediate threat. A broad decision from the Court could be enough to force those states to issue permits to any law-abiding citizen who applies.
A favorable ruling could also predict positive outcomes for other 2A cases. The lower courts have disagreed on “assault weapon” bans and magazine capacity restrictions, to name just two examples, so the Supreme Court could also strike down those bans in states that have them.
The Court will likely hear this case in the fall and issue a decision next spring.