The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a New York state gun control law that required gun owners seeking a license to carry a concealed handgun to demonstrate a “proper cause” to do so.
In a 6-3 ruling, the Court reversed a lower court decision upholding the law and delivered the most significant victory for gun rights in more than a decade.
New York’s state law required people who want to carry concealed handguns outside their homes to show a “proper cause” for having a license to do so. State courts had ruled that gun owners needed to show more than a general desire for protection in order to obtain a concealed carry license; they could not just claim they wanted it for self-defense.
The Supreme Court declared New York’s law unconstitutional on 14th Amendment grounds, saying that New York prevented law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
“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,” the court said.
Justice Clarence Thomas delivered the majority opinion for the court, writing, “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.’”
“We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need,” Thomas wrote. “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 t comes to public carry for self-defense.”
The three liberal justices dissented.