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Supreme Court strikes down New York's restrictions on concealed carry

Supreme Court of the United States in Washington, D.C.
Casey Harper | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday in a Second Amendment case, striking down a New York gun law that required residents to prove they had “proper cause” to receive a permit to carry a firearm outside the home.

The court ruled 6-3 with Chief Justice John Roberts writing the opinion. Roberts wrote that the court “recognized that the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect the right of an ordinary, law-abiding citizen to possess a handgun in the home for self-defense.”

The court argued that New York’s requirements were too stringent and violated previous court rulings and the Constitution.

“In 43 States, the government issues licenses to carry based on objective criteria,” the court said. “But in six states, including New York, the government further conditions issuance of a license to carry on a citizen’s showing of some additional special need. 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.”

The case began when Brandon Koch and Robert Nash denied concealed carry licenses in New York.

State officials argued that under New York law, concealed carry permits should only be issued when the applicant can prove “proper cause” that is beyond a “nonspeculative need for self-defense.”

“Absent such a need, applicants may receive a ‘premises’ license that allows them to keep a firearm in their home or place of business, or a ‘restricted’ license that allows them to carry in public for any other purposes for which they have shown a non-speculative need – such as hunting, target shooting, or employment,” the states’ defense wrote. "The individual petitioners here received restricted licenses.”

Nash, however, pointed to multiple robberies in his neighborhood and filed a legal challenge, arguing New York residents should be allowed to carry a firearm without meeting New York’s high and arbitrary standard.

“New York prohibits its ordinary law-abiding citizens from carrying a handgun outside the home without a license, and it denies licenses to every citizen who fails to convince the state that he or she has ‘proper cause’ to carry a firearm,” the challengers wrote in a court filing.

The Supreme Court agreed that New York’s standard was too “demanding.”

“This ‘special need’ standard is demanding,” reads the ruling. “For example, living or working in an area ‘noted for criminal activity’ does not suffice.”

Critics of New York’s actions pointed to District of Columbia v. Heller, a major 2008 gun rights case where the Supreme Court considered “the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.”

In the Heller case, the court considered the “prohibition on the possession of usable handguns in the home” and ruled that such a prohibition was unconstitutional.

Thursday’s ruling and the Heller case will help pave the way for future citizens to push for keeping firearms in the home in even the most restrictive states and cities.

Thursday’s ruling comes as the U.S. Congress considers an array of gun control measures in the aftermath of deadly shootings in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, New York. Foremost among those provisions are “red flag” laws that would allow judges to take firearms from individuals deemed dangerous by the court.

New polling, though, shows the majority of Republicans and Independents, unlike Democrats, think those laws can be abused for political purposes.

The state’s governor objected to the ruling Thursday.

“It is outrageous that at a moment of national reckoning on gun violence, the Supreme Court has recklessly struck down a New York law that limits those who can carry concealed weapons,” New York’s Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement. “In response to this ruling, we are closely reviewing our options – including calling a special session of the legislature. Just as we swiftly passed nation-leading gun reform legislation, I will continue to do everything in my power to keep New Yorkers safe from gun violence.”