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The Supreme Court Thursday ruled 6-3 that New York’s regulations that made it difficult to obtain a license to carry a concealed handgun were unconstitutionally restrictive, and that it should be easier to obtain such a license.
The existing standard required an applicant to show “proper cause” for seeking a license, and allowed New York officials to exercise discretion in determining whether a person has shown a good enough reason for needing to carry a firearm. Stating that one wished to protect themselves or their property was not enough.
“In this case, petitioners and respondents agree that ordinary, law-abiding citizens have a similar right to carry handguns publicly for their self-defense. 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,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in the Court’s opinion, referencing two previous gun cases. “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 noted that the state statute does not define what “proper cause” means, and that courts had ruled that the standard was met by people who showed a “special need for self-protection.”
“This ‘special need’ standard is demanding,” Thomas wrote. “For example, living or working in an area ‘noted for criminal activity’ does not suffice.”
In 43 other states, Thomas noted, authorities are required to issue licenses to applicants who meet certain requirements, and officials do not have discretion to say no due to what they believe is an insufficient need.
The case, 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. Thomas referenced 2010’s McDonald v. City of Chicago and D.C. v. Heller in his reasoning for Thursday’s ruling.
“As we stated in Heller and repeated in McDonald, ‘individual…