The Supreme Court appears to be wary of New York’s gun limits

The Supreme Court appeared to be wary of a New York law that strictly limits the carrying of guns outside the home during discussions Wednesday in the first major Second Amendment showdown in more than a decade.

The conservative majority court raised serious questions about the constitutionality of the New York regulation, which gives government officials wide discretion over issuing licenses to carry a concealed firearm.

“Why isn’t it good enough to say that I live in a violent area and I want to be able to defend myself?” Justice Brett kavanaughBrett Michael Kavanaugh Will the Supreme Court Allow Texas Abortion Law to Override Constitutional Oversight? Has the Supreme Court been infected with Trump syndrome for a long time? Press: In war between Catholics, Pope Francis sides with Biden MORE the New York attorney general asked. “With any constitutional right, if it depends on the discretion of an individual officer, that seems inconsistent with an objective constitutional right.”

What is at issue in the case is New York’s so-called “just cause” law, which generally requires applicants to demonstrate a special need, beyond a basic desire for self-defense, to qualify for a concealed carry license without restrictions. New York is among eight states and the District of Columbia that grant broad discretion to licensing officials.

The dispute arose after two New York residents were denied unrestricted carrying licenses. Backed by an affiliate of the National Rifle Association, the applicants sued the licensing officials and, after losing in the lower courts, appealed to the Supreme Court.

Paul Clement, a former US attorney general who represented applicants for gun licenses on Wednesday, argued that New York law violates the right to own and bear arms enshrined in the Constitution.

“At the end of the day, I think what it means to give someone a constitutional right is that you don’t have to convince a government official that you have a great need to exercise it or face unusual risks,” Clement said. the judges.

The three liberal justices on the court appeared to provide a more comprehensive hearing on the public safety justification underlying New York law.

“I think that people of good moral character, who start to drink a lot and who can be there for a football game or some kind of football game, can get quite angry with each other. And if everyone has a hidden weapon, who knows? Justice Stephen BreyerStephen Breyer Supreme Court Rejects Maine Healthcare Workers’ Challenge to Vaccine Mandate Biden’s Defense ‘Come On Man’ Won’t Fly Over Religious Freedom A Politicized Supreme Court? That was the MORE point he said to Clemente. “And there are a lot of statistics in these reports to show that there are some people who do. And a lot of people end up dead. “

The Department of Justice (DOJ), on behalf of the Biden administration, argued in support of New York and urged the court to give in to the long-standing practice of allowing legislatures to place reasonable limits on firearms to protect public safety.

“We do not fight at all with the idea that the Second Amendment has something to say outside the home,” said Justice Department attorney Brian Fletcher. “Our proposal is simply that to understand how it applies outside the home, one has to look at the history and tradition of the regulations. And… there is a substantial history and tradition of regulation on the public carrying of concealed weapons, including handguns, due to the dangers they present and that regulations of that type, of which New York is one, are consistent with the recognized right. in the Second Amendment. “

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, in an apparent effort to underscore the reasonableness of the state’s licensing regime, said unrestricted concealed transportation is more available in rural areas than in cities.

But he faced rejection from Chief Justice John Roberts for what he saw as a logical inconsistency in his argument about self-defense.

“How many assaults occur in the forest?” asked Roberts, who seemed more receptive to the argument made by the gun license applicants.

Justice Samuel AlitoSamuel Alito Will the Supreme Court Allow Texas Abortion Law to Override Constitutional Oversight? Has the Supreme Court been infected with Trump syndrome for a long time? Press: In war between Catholics, Pope Francis sides with Biden MORE, one of the court’s most conservative judges, pressed a similar point.

“How many illegal weapons were seized by the New York Police Department last year? Do you have any ideas? “He asked Underwood, who said the number was probably considerable.” All these people with illegal guns, they’re on the subway, they’re walking the streets. Law I mentioned, no, can’t they be armed? ”

Wednesday’s case somehow picks up where the Supreme Court left off about a decade ago. In the 2008 court decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, the judges ruled 5-4 that the Second Amendment protects a person’s right to have a gun in the home for their own defense.

Although the court in the Heller case noted that Second Amendment law “is not unlimited,” the justices left the question of what gun restrictions are allowed by the Constitution largely unanswered.

A decision is expected in the case, New York State Gun and Rifle Association v. Bruen, this summer.

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