A majority of U.S. Supreme Court justices appear to be ready to strike down a restrictive concealed carry law in New York state because it is seen as violating the Second Amendment’s core right to “keep and bear” firearms for self-defense.
During a hearing on Wednesday, justices appeared to be swayed by arguments that New York’s high bar that requires concealed carry applicants to show “proper cause” in order to obtain a permit is an unconstitutional restriction, reports noted.
Second Amendment advocates are challenging the state’s law as they seek a balance between ensuring the public’s safety and protecting a basic constitutional right; the Supreme Court has not heard a major gun rights case in more than a decade.
In her arguments, New York Solicitor General Barbara Underwood talked about how the state seeks to regulate who can carry a concealed firearm as a means of promoting public safety, arguing that allowing more people to carry guns in New York City’s subways “terrifies a great many people,” according to DailyMail.com.
However, Justice Samuel Alito, one of the high court’s constitutional originalists, countered by noting that already, there are plenty of people illegally carrying guns on NYC subways and streets, hinting that “law-abiding” New Yorkers are denied the ability to defend themselves because of the state’s restrictive law.
“But the ordinary hard-working, law-abiding people…they can’t be armed?” he asked Underwood.
The law is being challenged at a time when violence and murders have risen dramatically over the past year especially, spiking more than 11 percent overall last month compared with October 2020. Many of the most horrific crimes are now occurring in broad daylight, reports have noted.
Joining Alito in voicing concern about the law were Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett, and Brett Kavanaugh, the latter three all Trump appointees, especially regarding what appears to be an arbitrary determination process regarding who can and cannot get a concealed carry permit.
For instance, residents who simply claim they do not feel safe but were nevertheless unable to provide any details about specific dangers are most often denied a permit. But more famous or well-connected people are often granted a permit, according to reports.
“Why isn’t it good enough to say I live in a violent area and I want to defend myself?” Kavanaugh asked at one point, DailyMail.com reported.
At another point, Roberts raised a specific concern regarding the law’s language that requires residents to prove they are under threat in rural areas just as they are in more urban spaces.
“How many muggings take place in a forest?” Roberts asked.
Alito asked why just “celebrities, state judges, and retired police officers” are able to obtain concealed carry permits but not ordinary New Yorkers.
“Could I explore what that means for ordinary law-abiding citizens who feel they need to carry a firearm for self-defense?” Alito asked in reference to Manhattan residents who may be forced to walk through high-crime sections of the city to get home at night and may be “scared to death” to do so.
“They do not get licenses, is that right? How is that consistent with the core right to self-defense?” he asked.
Though overall crime rose 11.2 percent year-over-year last month, according to NYPD statistics other crimes are up by larger numbers: Robberies climbed 15.8 percent while felony assaults rose by 13.8 percent.
But justices also challenged Paul Clement, arguing on behalf of plaintiffs.
Coney Barrett remarked at one point that throughout the country’s history, states and localities have banned or limited firearms in “sensitive” places.
“Can’t we just say Times Square on New Year’s Eve is a sensitive place because … people are on top of each other – we’ve had experience with violence, so we’re making a judgment, it’s a sensitive place?” she asked Clement.
The last time the Supreme Court ruled on the Second Amendment was in 2008 and 2010. Those cases established the right to keep and bear arms at home but left open the question of carrying firearms in public places.
That said, dozens of states have passed far less restrictive concealed carry laws including some, like Missouri, that have adopted what is known as “constitutional carry” — allowing residents without certain criminal convictions to carry concealed without having to obtain training or a permit.
Led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), 24 senators have argued on behalf of plaintiffs.
“The right is not merely to ‘keep’ arms, but to ‘bear’ them as well,” they said in an amicus brief filed with the high court.
The case centers around gun owners Robert Nash and Brandon Koch, who were denied concealed carry licenses. They joined by the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association.
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