From staff and wire reports
The Supreme Court said Thursday that Americans generally have a right to carry a handgun outside the home for self-defense and that a New York law requiring special need for such a permit is too restrictive.
The vote was 6 to 3, with Justice Clarence Thomas writing for the majority and the court’s three liberals in dissent.
“The Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home,” Thomas wrote, saying New York’s requirement of a specific need to carry a weapon violates that right.
“The constitutional right to bear arms in public for self-defense is not ‘a second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees.’ ” Thomas wrote, referring to a previous Supreme Court ruling. “We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need.”
He was joined by the court’s conservatives: Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.
In dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer pointed to the nearly 300 mass shootings since January and to data showing that gun violence has surpassed car crashes as the leading cause of death among children and teens.
The majority’s decision, he said, will make it more difficult for state lawmakers to take steps to limit the dangers of gun violence.
It also could embolden challenges to bipartisan legislation that was under debate Thursday in the U.S. Senate, said Richard Seamon, professor at the University of Idaho’s College of Law.
“It is an ironic coincidence that while one branch of the federal government is considering restrictions, another branch is striking them down when it comes to guns,” Seamon said.
The majority opinion puts the burden on lawmakers to prove that any gun control measures they impose have a historical precedent, Seamon said, even if they’re popular among the public. Though a concurring opinion from Justices John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh says that existing provisions including background checks and firearm training are legal.
Staff writer Kip Hill contributed to this report.
The Second Amendment allows states to “take account of the serious problems posed by gun violence,” wrote Breyer, who was joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. He added: “Many States have tried to address some of the dangers of gun violence … 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.”
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