Despite New York having some of the most restrictive gun control laws in the country, the case of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, which is currently before the Supreme Court, may loosen or eliminate gun regulations in many parts of the country.
To read the first part to this story, click here.
The Heller Ruling’s Role in Bruen
New York is not novel or the first to tackle challenges to restrictions on the right of self-defense. In considering New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, the Supreme Court will focus on the meaning of a case that sets some very important precedent: District of Columbia v. Heller.
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court handed down the Heller decision in 2008. Heller struck down Washington, D.C.’s ban on the possession of handguns in the home. This was the first time the High Court affirmed that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms. However, the suit was centered on a law about possession within the home, not in public, so that dictated the narrowed focus of the ruling.
The late Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the majority opinion declaring that the “central component” of the Second Amendment was not a “well-regulated Militia” but rather “the inherent right of self-defense.” Although, the majority’s decision also included cautionary language that lower-court judges have relied on to uphold gun restrictions. Scalia wrote:
“The right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited” and is “not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose…”
Recently, a question was posted on Cheaper Than Dirt’s social media channels asking whether felons should serve a lifetime firearms ownership ban. Opinions were mixed, and many lines were blurred. By contrast, Justice Scalia was clear in his opinion, which contained a list of “presumptively lawful regulatory measures,” such as restrictions on the possession of firearms by felons and support for bans on carrying firearms in sensitive places like schools or government buildings.
Not 50 years ago, concealed carry was banned or severely limited across most of the land. The National Rifle Association took up the call and began a campaign in the 1980s to reform or adopt concealed carry laws across the country. To say it was met with resistance from lawmakers would be an understatement.
The laws in most states and municipalities have become so deeply ingrained in the culture of government that citizens have little power to change them. Many believe that big government has the money and resources to impose its will, and the little guy is no match to resist or right the ship’s course.
Challenges via the court system have become our only hope. However, we win in a lower court only to have a judge from a higher court issue an injunction and slap away our rights until we can challenge the injunction and relitigate the case in a different court. This process repeats until we get the Supreme Court to agree to hear our pleas and lay the matter to rest.
On November 3, we hope for a favorable hearing in the Supreme Court — whose opinion cannot be overturned or set aside so easily. The hope is to finally achieve through the judicial system what we have failed to accomplish through the political process.
Today, New York is in league with California, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island by requiring citizens seeking a carry permit or license to show “proper” or “good” cause. That means, in reality, this case stretches far beyond the borders of those eight states. If favorable to the Second Amendment, the language of the majority opinion could become the turning point, as well as the basis of judges’ opinions for all Second Amendment cases in the future.
Beyond concealed carry, Bruen could join the ranks of the Heller and McDonald cases in shaping future court decisions. Cases seeking to strike down onerous and unnecessary legislation that restricts our Second Amendment right to take charge and exercise our right to self-defense. Cases that serve as the basis for decisions regarding so-called assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and other items regulated under the National Firearms Act of 1934 and House Resolution 17735 (more commonly referred to as the Gun Control Act of 1968).
Hopefully, in the years to come, we can look back and point to Bruen as a turning point. We will then see a pinpoint on the timeline when the Supreme Court released the shackles that bound and restricted our right to self-defense. For now, all we can do is wait for November 3 and look for clues in the questions and statements from the Justices of the High Court. Then, we will wait — impatiently — while we look forward to a decision in 2022.