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June 23, 2022

By 6-3 vote, SCOTUS expands Second Amendment rights by striking down NY public-carry licensing requirements

The Supreme Court this morning handed down its much-anticipated Second Amendment ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn., Inc. v. Bruen, No. 20-843 (S. Ct. June 23, 2022) (available here). Lots of Justices had lots to say in the first significant Second Amendment ruling in more than a decade:

THOMAS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and ALITO, GORSUCH, KAVANAUGH, and BARRETT, JJ., joined. ALITO, J., filed a concurring opinion. KAVANAUGH, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which ROBERTS, C. J., joined. BARRETT, J., filed a concurring opinion. BREYER, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which SOTOMAYOR and KAGAN, JJ., joined.

Here is how Justice Thomas's opinion for the Court gets started:

In District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), and McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 742 (2010), we recognized that the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect the right of an ordinary, law-abiding citizen to possess a handgun in the home for self-defense.  In this case, petitioners and respondents agree that ordinary, law-abiding citizens have a similar right to carry handguns publicly for their self-defense.  We too agree, and now hold, consistent with Heller and McDonald, that the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.

The parties nevertheless dispute whether New York’s licensing regime respects the constitutional right to carry handguns publicly for self-defense.  In 43 States, the government issues licenses to carry based on objective criteria. But in six States, including New York, the government further conditions issuance of a license to carry on a citizen’s showing of some additional special need.  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.

Because Bruen is lengthy, I am going to need some time to see if there could be considerable criminal justice echoes from what the Court has to say here.  But, as highlighted in this prior post, a group of defense attorneys filed an amicus brief in Bruen highlighting that their clients were greatly impacted by NY gun laws and that, in 2020, "Black people made up 18% of New York’s population,[but] accounted for 78% of the state’s felony gun possession cases."   I wonder how many gun defendants, not only in New York but elsewhere, might now have new arguments to make about their prosecution and sentencing.

June 23, 2022 at 10:58 AM | Permalink


Racial profiling appears to be alive and well in New York, when it comes to arresting people carrying guns.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Jun 23, 2022 11:43:40 AM

Doug: What are the other states besides New York that required a showing of some "special need" to carry a pistol, to get a concealed carry license? The opinion says that there are 6 such states.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Jun 23, 2022 11:47:55 AM

The Court's opinion says: "Aside from New York, then, only California, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey have analogues to the 'proper cause' standard. All of these 'proper cause' analogues have been upheld by the Courts of Appeals, save for the District of Columbia’s, which has been permanently enjoined since 2017."

Posted by: Doug B. | Jun 23, 2022 12:00:19 PM

Then, in light of today's Bruen decision, those Court of Appeals precedents (except for the D.C. injunction) no long appear to be valid, having effectively been over-ruled sub silentio.

For a defendant to have his New York conviction for possession of a pistol without a carry license overturned, would he have to show that he had applied for a concealed carry license and been refused one? Might such a defendant whose sentence has been completed attach the conviction using a Petition for a Writ of Error Coram Nobis?

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Jun 23, 2022 2:56:47 PM

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