The court has largely dodged the question since it issued two landmark opinions in 2008 and 2010 when it first found that the second amendment protects an individual’s right to keep and carry weapons at home for self-defense.
Gun rights advocates, and even some of the judges themselves, have expressed frustration that the court has refused to further define the scope of the law as the lower courts have maintained restrictions across the country.
With the addition of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, gun rights advocates are hoping judges will step in now, and experts are wondering whether judges are ready to put the issue on files for the next term.
Even if Chief Justice John Roberts and the three liberals of the court did not want to consider this particular case, the other five Conservatives could work around him if they so choose.
The new case concerns a New York law that regulates the license to carry hidden handguns in public. Residents have to prove that they have what the state calls “real and articulate”.
According to the Giffords Law Center, although most states still require a permit to carry a concealed weapon, many states place little or no restrictions on open carrying. All states allow concealed wear, but the majority require a permit, and the standards for obtaining such permits vary widely.
Three states (California, Florida, and Illinois) and the District of Columbia generally prohibit people from publicly carrying firearms in public. Two states (New York and South Carolina) prohibit the open carrying of handguns but not long guns, and three other states (Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New Jersey) prohibit the open carrying of long guns but not handguns. In the remaining states, people are generally allowed to carry firearms openly, although some states require a permit or license to do so.
“The law is consistent with the historical scope of the second amendment and directly promotes New York’s overriding interests in public safety and crime prevention,” New York attorney general Letitia James wrote in court records.
Since the 2008 and 2010 rulings, James said, the courts have ruled that the right to carry firearms in public is not unlimited and may be subject to regulatory measures that are consistent with “longstanding restrictions on that right.” The lower courts confirmed the restriction of the state.
The petitioners in the case are Robert Nash, Brandon Koch and the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association represented by former Bush administration attorney general Paul Clement.
Clement urged the judges to intervene, arguing that the “main unresolved issue of the second amendment” is whether a person has the right to carry weapons in self-defense “where confrontation is common: outside the home”.
The law makes it nearly impossible for an ordinary person to get a license, Clement said. “A good, even impeccable moral character and a simple desire to exercise a basic right are not enough,” he wrote.
Nash, for example, asked to carry a self-defense pistol after a series of robberies in his neighborhood, but was turned down because he did not show a particular need for self-defense. Koch wanted a similar license and was able to cite his experience of attending safety training courses. He too was rejected.
Koch wanted a similar license and cited his participation in safety training. He too was rejected.
The judges could also decide to weigh things up gradually. You could forego such an important and controversial topic and wait, for example, for a more targeted law on a less controversial issue, such as a law on the rights of people convicted of nonviolent crimes or laws related to mental health problems.
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