Analysis: U.S. Supreme Court ruling provides ammunition for gun law challenges


WASHINGTON, June 23 (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning New York state’s limits on the carrying of concealed handguns in public is likely to provide legal ammunition to challenge other regulations in the country, even if Congress is considering modest reforms.

In a 6-3 decision, the court recognized for the first time that individuals have the right to carry a firearm in public under the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, which protects the right to bear arms. Read more

The decision, written by conservative judge Clarence Thomas, declared unconstitutional a New York law that required people to have good cause to obtain a license to carry a concealed firearm.

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The ruling also clarified for future cases how courts must assess whether the regulations are valid under the Second Amendment, requiring that they be comparable to the type of restrictions traditionally enacted throughout U.S. history for centuries. centuries.

As a result of the ruling, government entities advocating gun restrictions must make additional arguments that the law in question is consistent with that history.

Since many gun laws are not easily comparable to historical restrictions, this could leave them vulnerable to legal attack. These include bans on assault-type weapons and high-capacity magazines as well as “red flag” laws to keep firearms away from people deemed a danger to themselves or others.

“I think that view is going to lead to a tremendous amount of litigation over the constitutionality of gun restrictions,” said Adam Winkler, a Second Amendment expert at UCLA Law School in Los Angeles.

The ruling is “drafted so broadly that it challenges a wide variety of gun safety laws,” Winkler added. That could include provisions of modest gun safety legislation currently being considered by Congress, Winkler said.

A bipartisan package of modest gun safety measures was introduced in the US Senate on Thursday. The legislation aims, among other things, to strengthen background checks on potential gun buyers convicted of domestic violence or serious crimes as minors. It does not include the broader measures favored by Democrats, including President Joe Biden, such as banning assault rifles or high-capacity magazines. Read more

Royce Barondes, a professor at the University of Missouri School of Law who teaches gun law, said he expects some past challenges to gun regulations that have been dismissed by the courts “have a better chance of succeeding after this case”.

Among the state regulations that are now “suspicious” are restrictions on licensing firearms to out-of-state individuals and bans on “standard capacity” ammunition magazines. “, which can vary depending on the model, Barondes said.

Several challenges to gun restrictions still require Supreme Court review, including a New Jersey ban on ammunition magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds.

Thursday’s decision made some concessions, acknowledging that governments could enact bans on guns in certain “sensitive locations” and stating that the schemes used in 43 states to issue concealed carry licenses when certain requirements are met are probably legal.

Two conservative justices who joined the decision offered what could be some parameters as to its scope. Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in a concurring opinion, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, that the ruling has some limitations, in particular some of the licensing requirements that states maintain, including background checks and weapons training fire.

In future gun cases, Kavanaugh and Roberts could be crucial votes. If they joined the three liberal justices, that would be enough to forge a majority in a future judgment.

As such, gun control advocates hoped that many of the regulations could withstand legal scrutiny, even under the Supreme Court’s new test.

Jonathan Lowy, a lawyer for the Brady Gun Control Group, said laws banning high-capacity magazines and assault-style semi-automatic weapons should be upheld because the Supreme Court has already ruled in a 2008 ruling. which concluded that there is an individual right to carry arms in the home that there is a historical tradition supporting the prohibition of “dangerous and unusual weapons”.

Thursday’s ruling noted that some cases “involving unprecedented societal concerns or dramatic technological changes may require a more nuanced approach.”

Barondes said that while he didn’t believe the language was designed to validate assault rifle bans, “I wouldn’t rule out lower courts using this as a tool to validate such a ban.”

Lowy and other gun control activists expressed frustration that the court’s conservative majority, in their view, selectively used historical evidence to support the invalidation of the New York measure while ignoring the history that favored the state, which they say could be the same approach used in later cases.

“I think there’s room for reasonable objective judges to enforce most gun laws,” Lowy said. “But the question is: who makes the decision?

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Reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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