WASHINGTON. The Supreme Court said Thursday that Americans have the right to carry guns in public, a significant expansion of gun rights.
The judges’ 6-3 decision follows a series of recent mass shootings and is expected to eventually allow more people to legally carry guns on the streets of the country’s largest cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Boston, among other places. About a quarter of the US population lives in states expected to be affected by this ruling, the first major gun ruling by the Supreme Court in more than a decade.
The decision comes amid active congressional work on gun laws following the recent mass shootings in Texas, New York and California.
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority that the Constitution protects “the right of the individual to carry a pistol for self-defense outside the home.”
In their decision, the judges struck down a New York law requiring people to demonstrate a special need to carry guns in order to obtain a license to carry guns in public. The judges said the requirement violated the Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms”.
California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island have similar laws. The Biden administration urged judges to uphold New York law.
In a dissent joined by his Liberal colleagues, Judge Stephen Breuer focused on the toll suffered by gun violence. “Since the beginning of this year (2022) alone, there have already been 277 cases of mass shootings — an average of more than one per day,” Breuer wrote.
Supporters of the New York law argued that its repeal would eventually lead to more guns on the streets and higher rates of violent crime. The decision comes at a time when gun violence, already on the rise during the coronavirus pandemic, has flared up again.
In most countries, gun owners have no problem carrying guns legally in public. But this was more difficult to do in New York and several states with similar laws. New York State law, in effect since 1913, states that in order to carry a concealed handgun in public, a person applying for a license must show “good cause”, that is, a specific need to carry a weapon.
The state issues unlimited licenses, which allow a person to carry their weapon anywhere, and limited licenses, which allow a person to carry a weapon, but only for certain purposes, such as hunting and target shooting, or to and from work.
The last time the Supreme Court made a major decision on guns was in 2010. In this decision and a 2008 ruling, the judges established a national right to keep weapons at home for self-defense purposes. This time, the question arose before the court about taking one out of the house.