The Supreme Court Just Struck a Huge Blow to Gun Regulation

In a 6-3 decision, conservative judges struck down New York's concealed carry handgun laws.
Todd Settergren of Setterarms gun shop, handles pistols inside his display case on Friday Jan. 13, 2017, in Walnut Creek, Ca.
Todd Settergren of Setterarms gun shop, handles pistols inside his display case on Friday Jan. 13, 2017, in Walnut Creek, Ca. (Photo by Michael Macor/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

In a landmark gun rights decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against New York’s concealed carry law.  

That law requires people to demonstrate they have a “special need for self-protection” in order to be allowed to carry a handgun in public. It has been in place since 1913. 

Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority in the 6-3 decision, said New York’s law violates the Second and 14th Amendments by “preventing law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to keep and bear arms in public.” 

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The decision went down party lines with conservative judges in favor and liberals dissenting the opinion. 

In his dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer noted the huge number of mass shootings in the U.S. this year.

“Since the start of this year (2022), there have been 277 reported mass shootings—an average of more than one per day,” he wrote. “Gun violence has now surpassed motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of death among children and adolescents.”

The decision comes as Congress is working on a bipartisan gun control bill in the wake of mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde. Its impact will likely reach beyond New York, to other states with concealed carry restrictions including California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Jersey.  

New York is a “may issue” state meaning people must pass certain requirements in order to be able to carry a concealed handgun—and the license-issuing body has discretion.

Shootings in New York City doubled from 2019 to 2021, and rose even more in the first quarter of 2022. In June, Mayor Eric Adams named a new “gun czar” to help tackle the problem.

In the decision, Thomas wrote that New York does not deserve an exception to constitutional gun rights. 

“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,” he wrote. 

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New York Governor Kathy Hochul said the decision is “frightful” and impedes the state’s ability to protect its citizens.

“This could place millions of New Yorkers in harm’s way,” she said in a press conference, vowing to review legislative options.

In a statement, Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, took credit for the Supreme Court ruling and hailed it as a boon for self-defense.

“This ruling brings life-saving justice to law-abiding Americans who have lived under unconstitutional regimes all across our country, particularly in cities and states with revolving door criminal justice systems, no cash bail and increased harassment of law-enforcement,” he said.  

Speaking previously to VICE News, Daniel Webster, the director of the John Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Prevention and Policy, said the striking down of New York’s concealed carry restrictions could have a major impact on public safety.  

“The risk to the broader public becomes far more relevant when those rights to concealed carry are extended to all gun owners.”

Trone Dowd contributed to this report.