While Friday saw the U.S. Supreme Court remove protected rights in its overturn of the landmark case Roe v. Wade, just one day earlier, six justices led the overturn of a New York law that will return the right to carry concealed firearms to gun owners across the nation.
In a 6-3 vote on New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, Justices Thomas, Roberts, Alito, Kavanaugh, Gorsuch and Barrett cemented that “the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.”
New York law has required residents show “proper cause” when applying for a license to carry a handgun in public. Applicants must “demonstrate a special need for self-protection distinguishable from that of the general community;” a burden of proof Justice Thomas wrote “prevents law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to keep and bear arms.”
“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,’” he continued in his opinion. “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.”
In overturning the lower court decision, the Supreme Court also established a new standard by which courts should evaluate future gun restrictions, stating “government must demonstrate that the regulation is consistent with this nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation,” ensuring the right to “keep and bear arms” shall not be infringed.
New York Not Alone
While the case was specific to New York, the Supreme Court’s ruling has already sent ripples throughout the country for other states with similar “may issue” licensing, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey.
Restrictions on carry permits in such states are expected to be overturned, but the Court maintained “shall-issue licensing regimes are constitutionally permissible” and “may require a license applicant to undergo fingerprinting, a background check, a mental health records check, and training in firearms handling and in laws regarding the use of force, among other possible requirements.”
A historic victory for gun proponents, the firearms industry applauded the Supreme Court on its decision.
“This is a tremendous victory for the rights of all law-abiding Americans to exercise the pre-existing and God-given right to keep and bear arms for self-defense,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF Senior Vice President and General Counsel.
“This is another landmark win for constitutional freedom and the NRA. This decision unequivocally validates the position of the NRA and should put lawmakers on notice: no law should be passed that impinges this individual freedom,” said NRA Executive VP, Wayne LaPierre.
Of course, not all support the ruling, especially those who have fought to curtail crime and violence through gun control in the wake of recent events.
“I am deeply disappointed by the Supreme Court’s ruling,” said President Joe Biden. “This ruling contradicts both common sense and the Constitution, and should deeply trouble us all. I urge states to continue to enact and enforce commonsense laws to make their citizens and communities safer from gun violence.”
“We believe that the decision was shocking in its scale and also reprehensible given that we are experiencing a nationwide gun violence crisis. We never were taking away your right to possess a gun. We have a right to restrict who has it and where they use this gun,” said New York Governor, Kathy Hochul.
Impact on FFLs
As of 2021, over 21.5 million Americans, or roughly 8% of adults, hold concealed carry permits – an increase of 10.5% from 2020 and 48% from 2016, according to a report prepared by the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC). The report also estimated, should New York’s “proper cause” law be struck down, permits could increase another 2.3 million.
For firearm dealers, that could mean another rush on firearms as residents of “may issue” states seek out handguns suitable for concealed carry, as well as new interest in firearms safety training for new and existing gun owners. Up the supply chain, such demand could greatly impact manufacturers, who may need to increase production or redirect product to different states to maintain supply. However, only time will tell what the lasting impact of the Supreme Court ruling will be for the industry.
Stay tuned to Orchid for the latest updates on state and federal legislation impacting FFLs and the firearms industry.