From the Editor: What This Constitutional Ruling Means

by
posted on August 24, 2022
Frank Miniter

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen comes down to this: The rights so clearly stated in the Second Amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights don’t inexplicably vanish when a citizen leaves their home. 

Put that plainly, it is all the more appalling that some appeals court judges used balancing tests to pretend this right disappeared outside the home in the shadow of what they deemed to be a “state interest.” 

Justice Clarence Thomas’ majority opinion in Bruen sent those dishonest rulings back to the lower courts by stating: “We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need.”

As you’ll see in an interview with Tom King, the president of the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association (NYSRPA) and an NRA board member, this case began when two members of the NYSRPA, which is an NRA-affiliated group, asked King what they could do after a local licensing official denied them their right to bear arms. King called the NRA.

With the NRA’s legal team behind this critical case, it moved up through the courts until it was finally accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court as a challenge to New York’s “may-issue” licensing regime. 

Before Bruen, with certain exceptions for judges and such, getting a carry permit in New York required demonstrating a “proper cause” to a licensing official’s satisfaction. The Supreme Court stripped that power from licensing officials. “To confine the right to ‘bear’ arms to the home would nullify half of the Second Amendment’s operative protections,” wrote Justice Thomas in this ruling.

Despite what politicians are saying in New York and California, this does not mean that what were “may-issue” areas of America will soon become something like movies portray the Wild West to have been. Before this ruling, 43 states, as Justice Thomas noted, already had “shall-issue” regimes; indeed, 25 states now have constitutional carry. These states have not seen “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” shootouts between citizens as a result of citizens having their centuries-old American freedom restored.

Now, to determine if a gun restriction is constitutional, this ruling says the government must show that a restriction is “consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.” Justice Thomas then observed: “None of these historical limitations on the right to bear arms approach New York’s proper-cause requirement, because none operated to prevent law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from carrying arms in public for that purpose.” 

This ruling is a big win for American freedom, but the struggle is hardly over. In response to Bruen, New York quickly passed restrictions on where citizens can carry that include public transit, protests, churches and so many other places it will be difficult for those with permits in New York state to navigate the checkerboard of restricted areas without, unbeknownst to them, committing a potential felony by carrying in a now “sensitive area.”

As was the case after D.C. v. Heller (2008), there is much more work to be done to stop state and local governments from using other invented legal methods to infringe upon on this critical right.

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