For the first time since its ruling in McDonald v. Chicago nearly 11 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to hear a gun-rights case. Its decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Corlett* will have far-reaching consequences for gun owners throughout the nation. For this reason, the case is something to keep a close eye on. Fortunately, we will keep our readers updated as events unfold.
We Aren’t Clairvoyants
The Supreme Court recently decided to hear this case to determine whether the state of New York’s denial of petitioners’ applications for concealed carry licenses for self-defense violated the Second Amendment. The state currently has a “may-issue” policy regarding the issuance of state pistol licenses. This means that local law enforcement has discretion in determining whether or not to issue a concealed weapons license to an applicant. To receive an unrestricted license to carry a concealed firearm outside the home, a person must show “proper cause.” This has to be interpreted as “a special need for self-protection distinguishable from that of the general community or of persons engaged in the same profession” (Matter of Klenosky v. New York City Police Department).
If a person doesn’t have what New York deems a “special need for self-protection,” he or she can be denied a permit. Robert Nash and Brandon Koch were denied permits for that reason. New York’s lower courts said that neither of these individuals had a “proper cause” to carry a firearm.
How many people forced to use a firearm in self-defense know they will need to use it that day at that moment? Most people aren’t clairvoyants.
For the last decade, the Supreme Court has steered clear of directing how much states can regulate gun rights. But it decided to finally tackle the subject this fall. Fortunately for gun owners, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, confirmed last year, brings the conservative majority to 6-3. Four of the justices have agreed to take up the case. This meets the requirement for a case to be considered. It is an indication that the justices believe they have a good chance to expand a citizen’s right to bear arms. In District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court safeguarded Americans’ right to possess a firearm and use it for lawful purposes, such as in their homes for self-defense. Now it will rule if citizens have the same right outside of their homes.
If the Supreme Court does find New York’s actions unconstitutional, this will set the standard on how other states can regulate citizens choosing to concealed carry outside of their homes. Besides New York, the states of California, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island currently have significant restrictions. The Supreme Court has an opportunity to provide some clarity on the matter and lessen these restrictions. Its ruling will likely have an impact for years to come. And fortunately for gun owners, the odds are that the court’s decision will favor them.
Originally Published May 2021
Updated August 2021
*Keith M. Corlett served as the 16th Superintendent of the New York State Police from June 4, 2019, to November 28, 2020. Kevin P. Bruen succeeded him as the 17th Superintendent on June 7, 2021.
A total of 43 amicus briefs were filed supporting the case.
Updated October 2021
The final reply brief was filed on October 14, and the Argument date is set for November 3.
Updated November 2021
Oral arguments began Wednesday, November 3. The court appears poised to strike down New York’s restrictive law.
Updated January 2022
Virginia’s change in administration led to a change in its position on New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, et al. v. Kevin P. Bruen, et al. Virginia now believes the requirement of New York citizens to show “proper cause” should be struck down.
Updated June 2022
On June 23, 2022, the Supreme Court ruled that New York’s denial of petitioners’ applications for concealed carry licenses for self-defense is unconstitutional.