Blue states scramble to adjust concealed carry laws after Bruen decision

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File

Get ready for a lot of Democratic governors to proclaim they’re following the Supreme Court’s decision while doing everything they can to undermine it. In the wake of Thursday’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen striking down the “may issue” carry laws in states like New York, California, New Jersey, and Maryland, anti-gun politicians are scrambling to drop the requirement that applicants for concealed carry licenses prove a “justifiable need” or “good cause” to carry, but they still want to make it as difficult as possible for citizens to exercise their right to bear arms.

In California, lawmakers are amending legislation to expand the qualifications people must have to obtain a concealed carry permit and to define the places where guns would be off-limits. The revised bill will get its first hearing Tuesday, and lawmakers hope to send it quickly to Gov. Gavin Newsom, who called Thursday’s Supreme Court decision shameful.

Other Democratic governors, lawmakers and state attorneys general also vowed to defend or amend their gun laws.

… In Hawaii, Democratic state Sen. Chris Lee said lawmakers will try to determine how else they can ensure public safety and will look at screening, training requirements and ways to keep guns out of certain public spaces — provisions the justices said would be permitted.

“Bottom line is Hawaii is about to become a more dangerous place,” said state Sen. Karl Rhoads, a Democrat. “Hawaii will go from a place where the right to carry in public is the exception to a place where not having the right to carry on the street is an exception. I see no restriction on the type of firearm.”

… New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, criticized the court’s opinion for limiting how states can address the proliferation of firearms in public, but vowed to protect the state’s gun control measures. He said his administration believes the state can still regulate who can carry concealed weapons and where they can take them.

He vowed that his administration “will do everything in our power to protect our residents.”

You can read the current text of the California proposal here, though it very well could be amended before next Tuesday’s hearing. The biggest change at the moment appears to be a requirement that applicants “be the recorded owner, with the Department of Justice, of the pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person.” In other words, your concealed handgun permit would allow you to carry a specific firearm registered with CalDOJ, but not any firearm. Pick up a new pistol for your everyday carry? Well, you won’t be carrying it legally until you’re able to navigate the maze of red tape and bureaucratic B.S. that the state is going to throw up in your way.

Like I said, though, we’re liable to see more restrictions added to the California bill, and other blue states are looking at a number of other measures they can put in place to artificially depress the number of lawfully-armed citizens.

Options include mandating a significant amount of required training before a permit is granted or imposing bans on carrying guns in certain frequented places, such as public transit systems, schools, polling places or parks, constitutional and Second Amendment lawyers said on Thursday. The changes would almost certainly generate new lawsuits.

… “The default right now is that you can bring a lawfully carried firearm into private property unless you are explicitly told not to,” said Eric Ruben, assistant professor of law at the S.M.U. Dedman School of Law. “States might consider whether this default should be flipped in a world where more Americans are carrying concealed guns.”

Exactly how much harder or easier it will become to get a concealed-carry permit in these states will be determined only by the legislative responses, said Darrell Miller, a law professor at Duke University and a co-director of the Duke Center for Firearms Law.

“What is clear is that these states will have to change their laws in a way where the licensing authority has less discretion to deny a permit,” Mr. Miller said.

I live not far from Farmville, Virginia, where back in the late 1950s the Prince Edward Public School system was shut down for five years after locals refused to abide by the Supreme Court’s order to desegregate the schools (the Moton Museum, which used to be the black-only high school, is a must-visit site if you’re ever in town). It was a shameful period in the county’s history, and I can’t help but be reminded of that massive resistance to desegregation when I see Democrats vowing to do all they can to make it as hard as possible to exercise another constitutionally-protected right. Justice Clarence Thomas declared in the Bruen decision that the Second Amendment is not a second-class right, but anti-gun politicians like Gavin Newsom and Kathy Hochul don’t even afford it second-class status, treating it as an outright wrong and a cancer on our body politic.

I hope that one day that will change, but it’s not going to happen overnight, and in the meantime we have plenty of work to do to ensure that our right to keep and bear arms is more than just a hypothetical in Democrat-controlled territory. Far from settling the gun control debate, the Bruen decision is likely to lead to even more anti-gun overreach, and I hope the Supreme Court is eager to weigh in on the many cases that will be heading its way in the next few years.