The US Supreme Court just struck a blow against gun control supporters that will have serious effects on how local jurisdictions around the country can restrict gun ownership.
In a 6-3 ruling along the court’s ideological lines on Thursday the justices struck down a New York law governing concealed-carry licenses. In doing so, they affirmed that so-called “good or proper cause” laws are unconstitutional by design and have no legal standing, a victory for gun rights enthusiasts across the country.
Before Thursday, seven states including New York had such laws on the books: In essence, they provide an extra layer of restrictions for firearm ownership by allowing local law enforcement agencies the final say on whether an individual may be granted a concealed-carry permit or in some cases a weapon itself.
In order to satisfy the requirement, the applicant must prove that they have “good cause” for ownership of a weapon or a permit to carry it concealed, as the case may be.
In New York specifically, the law required persons to obtain a license to carry a concealed weapon outside of their dwelling in any circumstances; this licence could be denied by local police under the reasoning that an applicant had not shown a valid reason for needing such a permit. Open carry is banned in New York state, as it is banned or heavily restricted in a number of others as well.
Under the court’s decision Thursday, any New Yorker with a legally registered firearm will be able to apply for such licenses; they will need one, and have it with them, in order to legally leave the house with a gun but will no longer need to demonstrate that “proper cause”.
While the news was shocking to some gun control advocates who have looked for ways to keep firearms out of the hands of particularly those deemed a threat to themselves or others, it was not surprising given the court’s history of tossing restrictions on gun ownership and concealed carry licenses, and even a somewhat expected outcome given the bench’s newly-sharp rightward bent.
Indeed, the outcome of Thursday’s ruling could have been predicted by some as far back as 2015, when the District of Columbia saw a similar defeat at the hands of a DC-based federal district judge.
The nation’s capital has long had some of the most restrictive laws on firearm ownership in the country, and for good reason: The city and surrounding areas are home to dozens of federal buildings housing numerous agencies, and nearly a third of the District’s land falls under the jurdisdiction of the federal government. Prior to 2015, the restrictions almost amounted to a total ban; most private individuals were prohibited from having guns in their home before that ban was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2008, and until 2014 there was also a total ban on both open carry and concealed carry outside of the home.
The city still prohibits open carry but offers concealed carry licenses to private citizens. And in 2015, the District’s concealed-carry restrictions took another hit: The “good cause” provision which allowed the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) to withhold licenses for concealed carry if a person could not prove their need for such a license was struck down.
At the time, a federal judge gave the same reasoning that conservatives on the Supreme Court gave on Thursday: “Good cause” or “proper cause” provisions put an undue restriction on Second Amendment rights that other constitutionally-guaranteed rights do not face.
“Defendants have failed to demonstrate that there is any relationship … between reducing the risk to other members of the public and/or violent crime and the District of Columbia’s ‘good reason/’proper reason’ requirement,’“ wrote Judge Frederick Scullin. “[T]his requirement makes it impossible for the overwhelming majority of law-abiding citizens to obtain licenses to carry handguns in public for self-defense, thereby depriving them of their Second Amendment right to bear arms.”
With lawmakers working to formulate legislative responses to twin massacres in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, New York, the Court’s new understanding of the Second Amendment is at the front of many gun control activists’ minds.
Thursday’s decision was pilloried by many of those supporters who have accused the Court’s conservative justices, who separately look to be on the verge of tossing out federal abortion protections and sending that issue to the states, of only caring about “states’ rights” issues when it is convenient for the right.
William Tong, attorney general in Conncecticut where the 2015 Newtown massacre shocked many and reignited calls for a federal assault weapons ban, said as much in a statement reacting to the Court’s ruling on Thursday which he descried as a “radical and reckless rewrite” of the body’s prior positions and legal reasoning.
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