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Constitutional Rights & the Public’s Health

N.Y. State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n v. Bruen

Overview

N.Y. State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n v. Bruen (U.S. Supreme Court, June 23, 2022): In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court held that New York state handgun restrictions violated the Second and Fourteenth Amendments. New York state law required residents seeking a concealed handgun license to show “proper cause.” State courts interpreted this language to require those seeking a license to demonstrate a special, non-generalized need for self-defense. Two men whose license applications were denied for failing to meet this standard challenged the law, alleging Second and Fourteenth Amendment violations. A federal district court dismissed the complaint. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal, finding that the state law was substantially related to important government interests of public health and safety. Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority, held that New York’s legal requirement for license applicants to show a “special need for self-defense” violated the Constitution. Revamping Second Amendment tests for validating gun control measures, the Court held that gun restrictions “may not simply posit that the regulation promotes an important interest.” Rather, they must be “consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition” of the Second and Fourteenth Amendment protections of “an individual’s right to carry a hand-gun for self-defense outside the home.” Read the full Opinion here.

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