After the Supreme Court ruling on firearms, what’s next?
The Supreme Court has issued its biggest decision on gun rights in more than a decade. Here are some questions and answers about what Thursday’s decision does and does not do:
WHAT EXACTLY WAS THE SUPREME COURT’S RULING ON ARMS?
The Supreme Court has declared that Americans have the right to carry firearms in public for self-defense. This is important because about half a dozen states have made obtaining a license to carry a firearm in public conditional on the person demonstrating a real need – sometimes called “good cause” or “good cause” – to carry the weapon. This limits who can carry a gun in those states.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court struck down New York’s “just cause” requirement, but laws in other states are expected to face swift challenges. About a quarter of the US population lives in states expected to be affected by the decision.
The last time the court made major gun decisions was in 2008 and 2010. In those decisions, the judges established a nationwide right to keep a gun for self-defense in a woman’s home. nobody. The question for the court this time was simply about carrying a gun outside the home.
Judge Clarence Thomas wrote in the court’s majority opinion that the right extended outside the home as well: “Nothing in the text of the Second Amendment discriminates between the home and the public with respect to the right to keep and bear arms.
HOW DID THE JUDGES ORDER?
The gun ruling split the court 6-3, with the court’s conservative justices in the majority and its liberals dissenting. In addition to Thomas, the majority opinion was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. The three liberals on the court who dissented are Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
ARE NEW YORKERS NOW FREE TO CARRY A GUN IN PUBLIC?
Not exactly. The judges left other parts of New York’s gun law untouched, so there are still other requirements to get a license. The court made it clear that the state can continue to require people to apply for a license to carry a handgun and can place limits on who is eligible for a license and where a gun can be carried. Going forward, however, New Yorkers will no longer be required to give a specific reason why they want to be able to carry a gun in public.
The decision also doesn’t take effect immediately, and state lawmakers said Thursday they plan to revise licensing rules this summer. They have not yet detailed their plans. Some options being discussed include requiring firearms training and a clean criminal record. The state could also ban the carrying of handguns in certain places, such as near schools or on public transportation.
Additionally, the decision does not address the law recently passed in New York City in response to the Buffalo Grocery Massacre which, among other things, prohibited anyone under the age of 21 from purchasing or possessing a semi-automatic rifle.
WHAT OTHER STATES ARE LIKELY TO BE IMPACTED?
A handful of states have laws similar to New York’s. The Biden administration counted California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island as all having laws similar to New York’s. Connecticut and Delaware are also sometimes mentioned as states with similar laws.
WHAT CAN STATES DO TO REGULATE ARMS AFTER THE DECISION?
Judge Brett Kavanaugh, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, noted the limitations of the decision. States can still require people to get a license to carry a firearm, Kavanaugh wrote, and condition that license on “fingerprinting, background checks, mental health records checks, and training.” firearms and use of force laws, among other possible requirements. Gun control groups have said states could review and possibly increase these requirements. States can also say that those who have a license to carry a weapon must not do so openly but must conceal their weapon.
Judge Samuel Alito noted that the decision said “nothing about who can legally own a firearm or what requirements must be met to purchase a firearm.” States have long banned criminals and the mentally ill from owning guns, for example. The ruling also says nothing “about what kinds of weapons people can possess,” Alito noted, so states could also try to limit the availability of specific weapons.
The judges also suggested that states could completely ban the carrying of firearms in certain “sensitive places”. An earlier Supreme Court decision listed schools and government buildings as places where guns could be banned. Thomas said historical records show legislatures, polling stations and courthouses could also be sensitive locations. Thomas said courts can “use analogies to these historic ‘sensitive places’ regulations to determine that modern regulations prohibiting the carrying of firearms in new and similar sensitive places are constitutionally permissible.”
HOW DO COURTS ASSESS FUTURE GUN RESTRICTIONS?
The court has made it harder to justify gun restrictions, though it’s unclear what the new test announced by the court will mean for specific regulations.
Thomas wrote that the nation’s appellate courts applied an incorrect standard in determining whether such laws were inadmissible. Courts have generally taken a two-step approach, first examining the constitutional text and history to see if a regulation falls under the Second Amendment, and then, if so, examining the government’s justification for restriction.
“Despite the popularity of this two-step approach, it is one step too many,” Thomas wrote.
Now, Thomas wrote, courts can only enforce regulations if the government can prove that they are within traditionally accepted limits.
Among the state and local restrictions already challenged in federal court are bans on the sale of certain semi-automatic weapons, called assault rifles by opponents, and high-capacity ammunition magazines, as well as minimum age requirements. to buy semi-automatic firearms.
WHAT OTHER MAJOR RULES ARE UNDERWAY?
The Supreme Court heard arguments in the firearms case in November and a decision was expected before the court begins its summer recess. The court has nine more opinions to deliver before taking a break and plans to issue more on Friday. Still pending is a major abortion decision.
Associated Press editor David Caruso contributed to this report from New York.