Photo Credit: Jarek Tuszyński / Wikimedia
United States Supreme Court building in Washington DC, 2009

The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a century-old New York State law requiring state residents to “show cause” for carrying a concealed weapon outside the home.

The state had denied applications for a concealed carry license by two gun owners based on their failure to show what is considered “proper cause.”

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‘New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen’ was the first major gun rights case before the Supreme Court in more than a decade.

Firestorm of Protest
President Joe Biden said in response to the ruling that he was “deeply disappointed” by the decision. “This ruling contradicts both common sense and the Constitution, and should deeply trouble us all,” he wrote in a statement from the White House.

New York State Governor Kathy Hochul called the ruling “reckless” and “reprehensible,” adding that she was “sorry this dark day has come,” and that she is “prepared to go back to the Legislature.”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams slammed the ruling, saying the Supreme Court decision “will put New Yorkers at further risk of gun violence.”

New York State Attorney General Letitia James called the decision “incredibly disappointing” but added “our basic gun laws remain intact – it is not open season for carrying guns in public.”

Brooklyn State Senator Julia Salazar called the ruling “shameful,” adding, “In a moment when our state is mourning the horrific massacre in Buffalo and gun violence in our communities, we need to do everything possible to end gun violence, not make handguns even more accessible.”

Manhattan’s New York City Council majority leader Keith Powers called the ruling “devastating” and said the decision “only makes it easier to carry a concealed firearm in New York.”

The Case
Under the current law in New York State that was challenged, officials may decide whether a person has proven they have a good enough reason to carry a firearm.

Two men challenged the law – on the books since 1913 — together with the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association.

The plaintiffs argued the denial was a violation of Second Amendment rights – the Constitutional right to bear arms.

Guns Laws More Restrictive in Israel
In the State of Israel, an applicant for a gun license is required to prove “reasonable need” to obtain any kind of firearm.

Most applications are denied based on failure to prove sufficient need.

An applicant for a gun license in Israel also must pass a highly detailed, comprehensive background check prior to obtaining approval for such a permit.

One cannot simply purchase an assault weapon for home use in Israel.

The Decision
In its decision, the Supreme Court ruled 6 to 3 that New York’s “proper cause” requirement to obtain a “concealed carry” license violates the Constitution by preventing law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms in public for self-defense.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority opinion, “The Second Amendment guarantees an ‘individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation,’ and confrontation can surely take place outside the home.”

In the 63-page ruling, Thomas wrote, “In this case, petitioners and respondents agree that ordinary, law-abiding citizens have a similar right to carry handguns publicly for their self-defense” – noting that in 43 other states, authorities are required to issue a gun license to those who meet the requirements in their applications; officials have no discretion to deny the application due to perceived insufficient need.

Minority Opinion Cited Gunfire Death Statistics
The decision was opposed by Justice Stephen Breyer, Justice Elena Kagan and Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Writing for the minority, Breyer noted that 45,222 Americans were killed by gunfire in the US in 2020 alone.

Breyer cited the number of mass shootings (more than 250 – 13 in the first week of June alone) that have already taken place so far this year. He also pointed out that gun violence is currently the leading cause of death for children and adolescents.

“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,” Breyer wrote. “The Court today severely burdens States’ efforts to do so.”

Majority Opinion Cited Second & Fourteenth Amendments
However, writing for the majority, Thomas wrote, “We too agree, and now hold, consistent with Heller and McDonald, that the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home,” Thomas wrote, referencing the 2010 McDonald v. City of Chicago, and D.C. v. Heller cases in his reasoning.

“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.”

Thomas added that the “special need” standard is “demanding… For example, living or working in an area ‘noted for criminal activity’ does not suffice,” he pointed out.

“As we stated in Heller and repeated in McDonald, ‘individual self-defense is ‘the central component’ of the Second Amendment right,’” the justice wrote, adding that his colleagues likewise think “respondents err in their attempt to characterize New York’s proper-cause requirement as a ‘sensitive-place’ law…

“Put simply, there is no historical basis for New York to effectively declare the island of Manhattan a “sensitive place” simply because it is crowded and protected generally by the New York City Police Department.”

Thomas added, “We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need. That is not how the First Amendment works when it comes to unpopular speech or the free exercise of religion. It is not how the Sixth Amendment works when it comes to a defendant’s right to confront the witnesses against him. And it is not how the Second Amendment works when it comes to public carry for self-defense.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.
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