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Supreme Court Upends New York Gun Law, Making It Easier to Publicly Carry Guns

In his dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer said the Court “burdens States’ efforts” to adequately address gun violence.

A second amendment protester stands in the rotunda of the State Capitol holding a semi-automatic rifle on January 31, 2020, in Frankfort, Kentucky.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against a New York state law that placed restrictions on residents seeking to obtain a concealed carry permit to carry a gun in public.

The law, which has been on the books for more than 100 years, required residents seeking concealed carry permits to provide a reason why they needed to carry a gun while they were in public. The Supreme Court, which ruled 6-3 against the statute along partisan lines, claimed that the restrictions were too burdensome and not in compliance with the Second Amendment.

“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,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in the majority opinion, adding that governments “may not simply posit that the regulation promotes an important interest” when it comes to regulating guns.

Outgoing Justice Stephen Breyer, in his dissent for the liberal minority bloc of the Court, noted that conservative members on the bench were dismissive of the need for tighter restrictions on guns. He began his dissent by listing statistics relating to gun violence, including the fact that over 45,000 Americans were killed by firearms in 2020, and that there have been 277 mass shootings recorded in this year alone.

“Many States have tried to address some of the dangers of gun violence just described by passing laws that limit, in various ways, who may purchase, carry, or use firearms of different kinds. The Court today severely burdens States’ efforts to do so,” Breyer wrote.

Legal experts believe that the ruling will go beyond changing the New York statute, and will also cause lower courts in other jurisdictions to reconsider their framework for analyzing gun laws.

“We’re in for a whole new slew of litigation challenging any and every gun-control measure in light of the analysis in today’s ruling,” CNN Supreme Court analyst Steve Vladeck said.

The ruling comes amid a surge of mass shootings in the U.S. over the past several weeks, including the massacre of 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, in late May. As the Senate passed a procedural vote on legislation intended to address gun violence on Thursday, President Joe Biden expressed dismay at the Supreme Court’s action, saying that he was “deeply disappointed” and that the decision “contradicts both common sense and the Constitution.”

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