The Bruen decision was groundbreaking. It made it very clear that the state cannot use subjective criteria to determine who is allowed to exercise their Second Amendment rights.
That was, after all, what was at the heart of the case. People couldn’t get carry permits because they didn’t have what issuing authorities felt was a “good cause” to get such a permit.
Bruen changed that.
And yet, as Reason’s Jacob Sullum points out, anti-gun states are doing it all over again.
After the Supreme Court upheld the right to bear arms last month, some states promptly complied with the ruling by eliminating subjective requirements for carrying a gun in public. But other states are either dragging their feet or refusing to acknowledge the decision’s implications.
The Court said New York had violated the Second Amendment by requiring “proper cause” to carry handguns for self-defense, a standard that gave local officials wide discretion to reject carry-permit applications. But anti-gun politicians have other tricks up their sleeves, including similarly vague standards and bans on firearm possession in specific locations, that will invite further litigation to vindicate a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution.
New York responded to the Court’s rebuke with a law that eliminates the “proper cause” requirement but specifies a long list of “sensitive locations” where gun possession is a felony punishable by up to four years in prison. Those restrictions will make it impractical or legally perilous for many permit holders to actually exercise the right recognized by the Court.
In addition to listing myriad places where permit holders may not carry firearms, New York’s law bans guns in all private establishments open to the public unless they post conspicuous signs announcing that they are deviating from the default rule—a step many business owners will be reluctant to take. A bill backed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta takes a similar approach.
New York’s law retains a requirement that permit applicants demonstrate “good moral character,” an assessment that includes perusing their social media posts. Bonta likewise maintains that California’s “good moral character” standard remains constitutional, and he suggests that controversial opinions could be disqualifying.
Now, to be clear, Bruen does leave the door open for “suitability” requirements, but it’s also quite clear that such requirements need to be objective and constitutional.
What we’re seeing from New York and California aren’t either.
This is little more than anti-gun states willfully ignoring the Bruen decision in such a way that it merely appears they’re adhering to the court’s ruling, but they’re not. If they were, they would have at least tried to understand the underlying principle behind Bruen: That the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right that cannot be denied to law-abiding adults.
Instead, people like New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and California Gov. Gavin Newsom are intent on denying that right to as many Americans as they possibly can.
They looked at Bruen and thought they saw an opening, but now they’re going to exploit that perceived opening to such a degree that this will end up before the Supreme Court again, only this time even that little sliver of hope for gun grabbers will be ripped away.
Not that I’m complaining, mind you, but there will be a lot of people who will be less than pleased. Hochul and Newsom, for example, and a lot of others as well.
Luckily, none of the displeased will be the kind of people whose happiness should be relevant to any of us, so we’ll have that going for us.