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Supreme Court Affirms Right to Bear Arms Outside the Home

Supreme Court Affirms Right to Bear Arms Outside the Home

United States Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. (Steven Frame / Shutterstock photo)

The U.S. Supreme Court in a 6-3 ruling has affirmed the right of Americans to carry firearms outside the home without undue government restrictions.

In the case New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, the high court on Thursday struck down New York’s restrictive may-issue carry law that requires applicants to prove to the government they have a “good reason” to want a permit. Seven other states that also currently have may-issue carry permit processes will also be affected by the historic ruling.

Writing for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas expressed what pro-gun advocates have been saying for years—and what anti-gun politicians feared most.

“The constitutional right to bear arms in public for self-defense is not ‘a second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees,’” Thomas wrote. “We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need.”

Addressing the New York law specifically, Thomas wrote: “Because the State of New York issues public-carry licenses only when an applicant demonstrates a special need for self-defense, we conclude that the State's licensing regime violates the Constitution.”

Of course, not all of the justices were in agreement with the ruling. Liberal Justice Stephen Breyer said the ruling is likely to severely burden states’ efforts to curb gun violence.

“The primary difference between the Court's view and mine is that I believe the Amendment allows states to take account of the serious problems posed by gun violence that I have just described,” Breyer wrote. “I fear that the Court's interpretation ignores these significant dangers and leaves States without the ability to address them.”

In reality, however, it will severely burden states’ efforts to push more restrictions on law-abiding gun owners. And that’s a good thing.

Pro-gun groups were thrilled and gratified with the decision after working hard for decades to get another Second Amendment case before the high courts.

“This is a tremendous victory for all American gun owners who cherish their God-given right to protect themselves and their families,” Erich Pratt, senior vice president of Gun Owners of America (GOA), said in a news release. “At GOA, we proudly fight to overturn restrictive gun laws, and we are excited to see may-issue concealed carry laws permanently relegated to the history books. After all, allowing the government to decide which citizens are permitted to carry a firearm outside the home downgrades our God-given rights to mere privileges. This is why the Second Amendment says our right to keep and bear firearms ‘shall not be infringed’!”

Meanwhile, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the firearm industry trade association, also celebrated the announcement of the ruling.

“This is a tremendous victory for the rights of all law-abiding Americans to exercise the pre-existing and God-given right to keep and bear arms for self-defense,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel. “This establishes that ‘may issue’ permitting schemes that relegate the Second Amendment to a second-class right that can be meted out by government bureaucrats are unconstitutional. The firearm industry is tremendously grateful to the U.S. Supreme Court’s faithful application of Constitutional rights.”


Of course, New York officials were none too happy with the ruling, even though their extensive gun control restrictions haven’t been effective at reducing violent crime in that state. In fact, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s understanding of the term “shall not be infringed” is apparently nonexistent.

“This decision isn’t just reckless, it’s reprehensible,” Hochul told CNBC. “It’s not what New Yorkers want. And we should have the right of determination of what we want to do in terms of our gun laws in our state.”

Other states with may-issue laws that will likely fall under the ruling include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland and New Jersey, along with the District of Columbia. While only about 15 percent of U.S. states, they represent nearly one-quarter of the country’s population.

Of course, 25 states now have laws on the books ensuring that law-abiding citizens can practice their constitutional right to keep and bear arms without having to cut through government red tape and pay special license fees to do so.

Voting to strike down the restrictive New York law were Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, and Neil Gorsuch. Voting against were Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonya Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for the past 20 years.

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