Just what this country needs: more hidden guns in the streets.
The Supreme Court on Thursday dramatically expanded the right to carry a concealed handgun in one of the most consequential — and alarming — firearms rulings in recent years.
By a vote of 6-3, the conservative-heavy court declared in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen that New York State’s laws regulating how and when residents can be licensed to carry handguns outside of their homes was unconstitutional, striking down licensing requirements to show “proper cause” to obtain a concealed carry license.
In the majority opinion authored by arch-conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, the court found that “the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home,” superseding New York State’s requirement that license applicants show a specific need be armed.
The Court’s ruling marks a significant constriction in how states will be allowed to limit and regulate certain firearms, with the Court’s conservative justices effectively opening the door for a marked increase in people carrying handguns outside of their homes in cities and states where once they couldn’t. It comes just weeks after the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, reignited lukewarm legislative efforts to curb America’s addiction to gun violence, resulting in a framework that includes enhanced background checks and support for red-flag laws but largely avoids taking significant action on banning high-capacity magazines or raising the legal age to purchase certain guns.
In a dissenting opinion authored by Justice Stephen Breyer, the liberal minority pushed back on the court’s decision, making special note to highlight the dangers firearms pose in a lengthy enumeration of recent mass shootings. Breyer wrote:
The dangers posed by firearms can take many forms. Newspapers report mass shootings occurring at an entertainment district in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (3 dead and 11 injured); an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas (21 dead); a supermarket in Buffalo, New York (10 dead and 3 injured); a series of spas in Atlanta, Georgia (8 dead); a busy street in an entertainment district of Dayton, Ohio (9 dead and 17 injured); a nightclub in Orlando, Florida (50 dead and 53 injured); a church in Charleston, South Carolina (9 dead); a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado (12 dead and 50 Cite as: 597 U. S. ____ (2022) 5 BREYER, J., dissenting injured); an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut (26 dead); and many, many more.
In a retort, conservative Justice Samuel Alito countered that “the dissent [fails to] account for the fact that one of the mass shootings near the top of its list took place in Buffalo? The New York law at issue in this case obviously did not stop that perpetrator.”
Earlier this year, a Lynch School of Education and Human Development at Boston College study determined that teenagers are already carrying firearms at a dramatically higher rate than just two decades ago, with the majority of those cases being teens from affluent white families. It’s a safe assumption that after Thursday’s ruling, those numbers will only increase even more.