Most of the Second Amendment community is thrilled that the Supreme Court has granted cert in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Corlett and will be delving into the issue of the right to bear arms in public for self-defense. Jason Ouimet of NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action says the organization is “confident that the Court will tell New York and the other states that our Second Amendment right to defend ourselves is fundamental, and doesn’t vanish when we leave our homes,” while the Second Amendment Foundation’s Alan Gottlieb declared that the 2A community has “waited years” for this moment and the Firearms Policy Coalition’s Senior Director of Legal Operations Adam Kraut expressing cautious optimism, calling the cert grant “an encouraging sign.”
On today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co we’re sitting down with Tom King, the executive director of the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, for a conversation about the details of the case and what he’s hoping for from a Supreme Court decision.
The NYSPRA along with several individual plaintiffs brought the case a couple of years ago in order to challenge the discretionary “may-issue” laws that remain on the books in New York and just seven other states. The individual plaintiffs are all legal gun owners, have passed background checks and completed the required firearms training, but have been unable to receive a carry license because the state of New York doesn’t recognize a general right to carry in self-defense.
The question raised by the plaintiffs was whether the Second Amendment protected their right to carry a firearm outside of the home for self-defense, but the Court tweaked the question when it granted cert. Now, the Supreme Court will decide “whether the State’s denial of petitioners’ applications for concealed-carry licenses for self-defense violated the Second Amendment.”
King says he’s not concerned about the slightly different language, and even Vox‘s Ian Millhiser (no friend of the Second Amendment) thinks the slightly more narrow question won’t do much to restrain the Court if there’s a majority in favor of the individual right to bear arms in self-defense.
Nevertheless, this narrower question is still broad enough to allow the Supreme Court to rewrite a decade of Second Amendment precedents, to unwind a consensus within the lower courts that permits many gun regulations to stand, and then to allow those lower courts to complete the process of dismantling other gun laws.
One thing that we shouldn’t expect from this case is for the Supreme Court to declare that all carry license laws are an infringement on the right to bear arms. For one thing, as King says, that’s not the argument that they’re making, so it’s not likely that the Court would issue a ruling so expansive it would strike down the shall-issue laws that are on the books in 42 states.
Rather, King says he and the other plaintiffs are hoping to see New York (along with states like California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Maryland) move to a shall-issue system that removes the discretion of law enforcement to decide who’s “suitable” or worthy to carry a gun.
We’ve seen in California and New York how these types of laws foster corruption, but they also allow for racial, religious, or even political discrimination on the part of the issuing authorities. A shall-issue system removes the opportunity for graft and bias by mandating that licenses be issued to all who meet the training requirements and have passed a background check.
In fact, I’m really looking forward to gun control organizations trying to defend letting police use their own discretion in deciding who should receive a permit to carry a firearm, given their embrace of the movement to “reimagine policing.” I guess their argument is going to be that the criminal justice system is inherently racist, with the exception of the gun control laws they’re fighting to keep and put on the books.
For more on the argument that Second Amendment supporters will be making, check out the entire conversation with Tom King above, and stay tuned for more coverage on NYSPRA v. Corlett in the days ahead.