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The Supreme Court has struck down part of New York’s concealed carry law, but our fight for public safety continues. Here’s what you need to know about NYSRPA v. Bruen.

On June 23, the Supreme Court ruled in NYSRPA v. Bruen, striking down an important component of New York’s concealed carry law. That component requires applicants for a permit to carry a concealed handgun in public to show “proper cause,” i.e. a bona fide and particular need to carry a firearm for self-defense. The law has been in effect for more than one hundred years. Five other states have similar requirements: California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. These states have some of the lowest rates of gun violence in the country. All told, more than one quarter of people in the U.S. live in states with these laws. Research shows that in states that have already weakened their firearm permitting laws, the move was associated with an 11 percent rise in the rate of homicides with handguns1Michael Siegel et al., “Easiness of Legal Access to Concealed Firearm Permits and Homicide Rates in the United States,” American Journal of Public Health 107, no. 12 (December 1, 2017): 1923–29, https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/10.2105/AJPH.2017.304057 and a 13-15 percent increase in violent crime rates more broadly.2John J. Donohue, Abhay Aneja, and Kyle D. Weber, John J. Donohue et al., Right-to-Carry Laws and Violent Crime: A Comprehensive Assessment Using Panel Data and a StateLevel Synthetic Control Analysis, 16 J.Empirical Legal Stud. 198 (2019), https://law.stanford.edu/publications/right-to-carry-laws-and-violent-crime-a-comprehensive-assessment-using-panel-data-and-a-state-level-synthetic-controls-analysis/

The Court also changed the standard that lower courts have used for years to interpret the Second Amendment and evaluate life-saving gun safety laws, inviting a flood of new litigation from the gun lobby and its allies.

However, the Court made clear that states are still allowed to require a license to carry a firearm in public, and expressly declined to interfere with the public carry regimes of all the remaining states—including those that require firearm training and deny applicants who pose a danger to public safety. The Court’s opinion makes clear that states can continue to require applicants to meet public safety requirements before carrying a gun in public. In addition, the Court affirmed the constitutionality of laws prohibiting guns in “sensitive places” such as schools, government buildings, polling places, and courthouses.

Does this decision mean an end to gun violence prevention laws?

No. The decision in this case is specifically about one aspect of New York’s licensing regime for the public carry of weapons. It does not invalidate firearm licensing more generally, it confirms the constitutionality of prohibitions on carrying firearms in sensitive places like schools, government buildings, and polling places, and it leaves in place the many important gun violence prevention laws that states around the country have enacted in recent years. And the decision makes clear, as Justice Kavanaugh emphasized in his concurring opinion, that, “properly interpreted, the Second Amendment allows a ‘variety’ of gun regulations.” Justice Alito’s concurrence, similarly, pointed out: 

Our holding decides nothing about who may lawfully possess a firearm or the requirements that must be met to buy a gun. Nor does it decide anything about the kinds of weapons that people may possess. Nor have we disturbed anything that we said in Heller or McDonald … about restrictions that may be imposed on the possession or carrying of guns.

Though the Court announced a new legal standard by which gun safety laws will be evaluated going forward, we’re confident that common-sense laws that are saving lives across the country will withstand review and we stand ready to defend them.

States can and should continue to enact lifesaving policies like:

  • Background checks on all gun sales
  • Extreme risk protection orders
  • Secure storage
  • Funding for community-based violence intervention programs
  • Disarming domestic abusers
  • Repealing “Shoot First” laws
  • Stopping the proliferation of ghost guns
  • Preventing shootings by police

How does the decision affect state laws?

The Supreme Court’s decision invalidates New York’s “proper cause” requirement, but the rest of its licensing law remains.  To address the dangerous implications of the Court’s ruling, New York should pass legislation to strengthen its laws to make sure that carry permits are issued only to people who are responsible, well-trained, and not a danger to themselves or others, and that guns are prohibited in sensitive locations like bars, playgrounds, and polling places.  The same is true for the five other “proper cause” states (California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey). 

For example, none of the potentially affected states prohibits guns at bars, even though the evidence is clear that guns and alcohol shouldn’t mix. Only California prohibits guns at polling places, despite the threat of voter intimidation. New York and Massachusetts do not require every applicant to demonstrate safe handling of a firearm.

These states will all need to legislate to address these gaps.

Does the decision affect the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act?

No. The focus of the decision is a specific component of a state public carry law and does not reach the policy areas in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. That life-saving legislation represents the will of the American people and should be enacted without delay.

How can you help?

If you live in a “proper cause” state, tell your legislators to update and strengthen the public carry rules to keep your communities safe.

No matter where you live–keep advocating for better gun laws!

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