SCOTUS Hears Arguments On New York Gun Law

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On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments regarding a New York gun law, potentially paving the way for a decision in favor of Second Amendment rights.

As reported by The Wall Street Journal, “During two hours of oral arguments, the court was receptive to claims from gun owners that New York abrogated the Second Amendment with its 1911 law conditioning concealed-weapons licenses on ‘good moral character’ and ‘proper cause.’”

“Less clear was what limits on weapons access the court would let lawmakers impose. Supreme Court precedent allows reasonable regulation of gun rights, but to date the court has provided little clarity beyond affirming restrictions on sensitive places such as schools and courthouses,” the outlet noted.

Supporters of gun rights state that their Second Amendment rights are weakened by the process in New York for giving out concealed-weapons licenses.

Paul Clement, the representative for petitioners Robert Nash, Brandon Koch, and the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association said, “In a country with the Second Amendment as a fundamental right, simply having more firearms cannot be a problem.”

He added that the founders imagined a place where “individuals get to make their decision about whether or not they want to carry a firearm outside the home for self-defense.”

“The problem with [permissive concealed-weapons laws] is that they multiply the number of firearms that are being carried in very densely populated places,” New York’s lawyer, state Solicitor General Barbara Underwood, said to the court. “Without assuming any ill intent on the part of the carriers of weapons, they greatly proliferate the likelihood that mistakes will be made, fights will break out, guns will be sold.”

Clement also pushed for a comparison of his client’s request for a concealed carry permit to the method of getting a license to hunt.

CNN reported:

“One way to think about it is we’re asking that the regime work the same way for self-defense as it does for hunting,” Clement said.

“When my clients go in and ask for a licensed concealed carry for hunting purposes, what they have to tell the state is they have an intent to go hunting. They don’t have to say: ‘I have a really good reason to go hunting.’ I don’t have to say: ‘I have a better reason to go hunting than anybody else in my general community.’”

“And the difference of course, you have a concealed weapon to go hunting, you’re out with an intent to shoot say a deer or rabbit which has its problems.” But when you’re carrying for self-defense, “you want to carry a concealed weapon,” he added.

As reported by CNN, “Justice Stephen Breyer noted that the New York law requires applicants to have good moral character but that circumstances in society can change around them.”

“I think that people have good moral character that start drinking a lot and may be there for a football game or some kind of soccer game can get pretty angry at each other. And if they each have a concealed weapon, who knows?”

Among other issues, some of the justices pointed to the difference in location when it comes to this type of issue.

The Journal noted:

“It’s one thing to talk about Manhattan, or NYU’s campus. It’s another to talk about rural upstate New York,” said Justice Clarence Thomas, who at one point thumbed through a road atlas while the court and Ms. Underwood discussed the characteristics of Rensselaer County, where the two individual plaintiffs in the case live.

“It seems completely intuitive that there should be different gun regimes in New York than in Wyoming, or that there should be different gun regimes in New York City than in rural counties upstate,” Justice Elena Kagan said. “But it’s a hard thing to match with our notion of constitutional rights generally.”

Overall, it was unclear just how the justices might lean, but their commentary led to reports that some could potentially rule more in favor of gun rights.

“The idea that you need a license to exercise the right, I think is unusual in the context of the Bill of Rights,” Chief Justice John Roberts said.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh said, “Why isn’t it good enough to say I live in a violent area, and I want to be able to defend myself?”

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