6-3 Pro-Gun Decision Threatens the Nation’s Biggest City
The Supreme Court wants to turn New York’s Time Square into the OK Corral. Donald Trump’s three NRA-approved judges all voted to throw out a 111-year-old New York law that limits who can carry guns on the streets.
“We will work together to mitigate the risks this decision will create once it is implemented, as we cannot allow New York to become the Wild West,” New York Mayor Eric Adams, a former police captain, said in a statement.
The decision, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, was released 30 days after the massacre in Uvalde, Texas, in which 19 children and two teachers were slain, some of them decapitated by bullets from the assault rifle legally carried on Texas streets by gunman Salvador Ramos.
“They have taken away our right to have reasonable restrictions,” said New York Gov. Kathy Hochul. “We can have restrictions on speech. You can’t yell fire in a crowded theater, but somehow there are no restrictions allowed on the Second Amendment.”
Alan Gottlieb, the founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, said the ruling is “a clear victory for the Second Amendment and law-abiding gun owners.”
Thomas, in the 6-3 opinion, threw out the two-part test that federal and state courts have used since a 2008 Supreme Court decision to reject most Second Amendment arguments of gun rights activists.
Thomas wrote that relying on history is a “more legitimate” way to make a ruling, especially given a “lack [of] expertise” by judges about firearms.
The decision may also invalidate laws in the District of Columbia and five other states – California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey – that also limit who can carry a gun in public.
Thomas was joined in the opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts and justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett were all endorsed by the National Rifle Association.
Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented, writing that the decision harms state efforts to try to reduce gun violence. More children and teens die in shootings now than in motor vehicle crashes. In 2020, 45,222 Americans were killed by firearms.
“In my view, when courts interpret the Second Amendment, it is constitutionally proper, indeed often necessary, for them to consider the serious dangers and consequences of gun violence,” Breyer wrote.
The case was brought by the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, which is affiliated with the NRA, and two men who couldn’t get gun permits in New York.
People seeking licenses to carry concealed weapons in New York had to show “a special need for self-protection.” The licensing officer for Rensselaer County rejected attempts by Robert Nash and Brendon Koch, plaintiffs in the case, to get gun permits.
Thomas wrote that the New York requirement violates the Fourteenth Amendment by preventing law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms in public for self-defense.
In the gun case, Thomas slighted the legal reasoning of gun violence advocates who traced the history of laws in England.
“We find that history ambiguous at best,” he wrote.
Thomas offered up the 1857 Dred Scott decision, written by Chief Justice Roger Taney, which declared Blacks were not U.S. citizens.
“Even Justice Taney recognized (albeit unenthusiastically in the case of blacks) that public carry was a component of the right to keep and bear arms,” Thomas wrote.
Paul Clement, the lead attorney in the case, was a clerk at the Supreme Court at the same time as Kavanaugh and testified at Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation hearing.