That was certainly my impression after listening to today’s oral arguments in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, and it’s good to see that you don’t have to be a Second Amendment supporter to get the same takeaway. The media consensus is that today’s arguments went pretty well for those backing the right to bear arms, with the Washington Post reporting alongside several other news outlets that a majority of the Court appears ready to overturn New York’s “may issue” permitting scheme for carrying a firearm in self-defense.
The court’s six conservative justices expressed varying levels of support for the two individuals and the National Rifle Association affiliate challenging New York’s requirement, enacted more than a century ago, that says those who want to carry a concealed weapon for self-defense show a “special need for self-protection distinguishable from that of the general community.”
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., the conservative member of the court thought least eager to want to weigh in on state and local gun control measures, nonetheless said New York’s law seemed at odds with a constitutional right.
“The idea that you need a license to exercise the right, I think is unusual in the context of the Bill of Rights,” Roberts said.
Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh was more direct: “Why isn’t it good enough to say I live in a violent area, and I want to be able to defend myself?”
CNN’s Supreme Court reporter agrees that at the six conservatives all appear to be supportive of the plaintiffs and their Second Amendment rights.
The Supreme Court seemed ready to expand Second Amendment rights after hearing arguments for over two hours and expressing skepticism about a New York law that restricts individuals from carrying concealed handguns outside the home for self-defense.
Chief Justice John Roberts at one point pressed New York’s solicitor general about the breadth of the law that requires an individual to show “proper cause” before obtaining such a license in locations typically open to the general public, even in rural areas.
“How many muggings take place in a forest?” Roberts asked.
I referenced Roberts’ “mugging” remark in my last piece, because it really does get to the crux of the issue. If the state of New York says that people can only carry a firearm for self-defense if they receive permission first, and most people are going to be told that they can only carry a gun in places where crime is nearly non-existent, then how on earth can the state also claim that it’s not infringing on the right to bear arms for self-protection?
Reuters also says the oral arguments went well for Second Amendment supporters.
Conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices on Wednesday appeared ready to shoot down New York state’s limits on carrying concealed handguns in public in a major gun rights case that could imperil various firearms restrictions nationally.
While appearing united in their skepticism about the constitutionality of the state’s law, some of the conservative justices expressed concern about how a ruling invalidating it might affect prohibitions on guns in sensitive places such as schools, sports stadiums and crowded public gatherings.
This was largely the justices using New York’s argument to probe plaintiffs’ attorney Paul Clement, who responded by first acknowledging that the Heller decision does indicate that firearms could be banned from “sensitive places”, but also argued that most of the restrictions the justices were asking about could also be covered under time, manner, and place regulations; in other words, it might be possible to ban firearms from Times Square on New Year’s Eve without banning the carrying of firearms in Times Square the other 364 days of the year. Clement also noted that the question of where people can legally carry firearms wasn’t raised by the plaintiffs, and the Court doesn’t have to decide such questions in its opinion unless it chooses to do so. The issue before the Court today was whether the state of New York is violating the Second Amendment rights of residents by imposing an arbitrary and subjective licensing scheme on those who wish to lawfully carry a firearm in self-defense, and on that, at least six justices appear to be ready to say “yes.”