SCOTUS shoots down New York gun restrictions

On Thursday, June 23, 2022, the Supreme Court ruled that New York state cannot restrict the Second Amendment right to carry a handgun. While the decision is a victory for Constitutional rights, a larger question is still on the table: How did gun regulations come to such a pass that a law-abiding citizen's right to carry a gun was so restricted in the first place?

In an effort to stop mass shootings, New York had created draconian rules about who could carry a handgun. Applicants for a carry permit had to show "proper cause," a nebulous term that was never clearly defined. Stating that one wished to protect oneself or one's property was not proper cause. Nor was living and/or working in a high crime area proper cause. People could state that they had a special need for self-protection, but since the term "special need" was not defined either, the authorities had complete discretion over whether or not they would award a carry permit. New York also attempted to use the "sensitive place" doctrine to restrict carry permits, meaning that it was not necessary for people in crowded areas to carry guns because law enforcement was supposed to be available.

Image: United States Supreme Court collage made using a photo by Jesse Collins. CC BY 3.0.

In writing the Court's opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas said, "[T]here is no historical basis for New York to effectively declare the island of Manhattan a 'sensitive place' simply because it is crowded and protected generally by the New York City Police Department." Justice Samuel Alito also pointed out in a concurring opinion that New York's restrictions had not prevented mass shootings such as the one on May 14, 2022 in Buffalo.

The Court's opinion also clarified that Second Amendment rights should not be held to a different standard than other constitutional rights. No one must demonstrate a proper cause or a special need to exercise free speech, to take the Fifth Amendment, or to freely practice their religion. In short, the ruling recognizes the fact that it is criminal behavior, rather than the tool that a criminal uses that is responsible for murders. Trying to stop shootings by taking away guns is like trying to stop drunk driving by taking away cars.

Pandra Selivanov is the author of The Pardon, a story of forgiveness based on the thief on the cross in the Bible.

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