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Second Amendment Right for Ordinary Law-Abiding Citizens to Carry Handguns Outside the Home for Self-Defense

Case Name: N.Y. State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n v. Bruen (2022) __ U.S. __ [142 S.Ct. 2111]
Case #: 20-843
Last Updated: June 23, 2022

New York prohibits its ordinary law-abiding citizens from carrying a handgun outside the home without a license, and it denies licenses to every citizen who fails to convince the state that he or she has “proper cause” to carry a firearm. In District of Columbia v. Heller, this Court held that the Second Amendment protects “the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation,” 554 U.S. 570, 592 (2008), and in McDonald v. City of Chicago, the Court held that this right “is fully applicable to the States,” 561 U.S. 742, 750 (2010). For more than a decade since then, numerous courts of appeals have squarely divided on this critical question: whether the Second Amendment allows the government to deprive ordinary law-abiding citizens of the right to possess and carry a handgun outside the home. This circuit split is open and acknowledged, and it is squarely presented by this petition, in which the Second Circuit affirmed the constitutionality of a New York regime that prohibits law-abiding individuals from carrying a handgun unless they first demonstrate some form of “proper cause” that distinguishes them from the body of “the people” protected by the Second Amendment. The time has come for this Court to resolve this critical constitutional impasse and reaffirm the citizens’ fundamental right to carry a handgun for self-defense.

The question presented is:

Whether the Second Amendment allows the government to prohibit ordinary law-abiding citizens from carrying handguns outside the home for self-defense.

The court granted certiorari limited to the following question: Whether the state’s denial of petitioners’ applications for concealed-carry licenses for self-defense violated the second amendment.

Held:

In District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U. S. 570, 128 S. Ct. 2783, 171 L. Ed. 2d 637 (2008), and McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U. S. 742, 130 S. Ct. 3020, 177 L. Ed. 2d 894 (2010), we recognized that the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect the right of an ordinary, law-abiding citizen to possess a handgun in the home for self-defense. In this case, petitioners and respondents agree that ordinary, law-abiding citizens have a similar right to carry handguns publicly for their self-defense. We too agree, and now hold, consistent with Heller and McDonald, that the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.

The parties nevertheless dispute whether New York’s licensing regime respects the constitutional right to carry handguns publicly for self-defense. In 43 States, the government issues licenses to carry based on objective criteria. But in six States, including New York [and California], the government further conditions issuance of a license to carry on a citizen’s showing of some additional special need. Because the State of New York issues public-carry licenses only when an applicant demonstrates a special need for self-defense, we conclude that the State’s licensing regime violates the Constitution.

This case was decided June 23, 2022. Justice Thomas delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett joined. Justice Alito filed a concurring opinion. Justice Kavanaugh filed a concurring opinion, in which Chief Justice Roberts joined. Justice Barrett filed a concurring opinion. Justice Breyer filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justices Sotomayor and Kagan joined.

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