New York’s current gun law violates the Second Amendment


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Alexander Sitnikov

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen. The case involves New York’s gun law, which severely restricts ordinary citizens from carrying a handgun in public outside of their home for self-defense.

New York has one of the most restrictive gun laws in the United States, and it’s time for the Supreme Court to strike it down due to its clear constitutional violations concerning the Second Amendment.

In order to receive a license to carry a firearm in public for self-defense, applicants must prove that they have a proper cause.

The standard itself is vaguely defined and allows the state to reject license applications at its discretion. Most states have “shall issue” systems, which remove all arbitrary bias and discretion, while New York has a “may issue” system.

Imposing so many restrictions to obtain a license shows that the constitutional right to keep and bear arms for self-defense, as correctly affirmed in McDonald v. Chicago and District of Columbia v. Heller, is more burdened and disfavored in New York than most other civil rights. New York’s law is far too prohibitory.

During the arguments, Justice Brett Kavanaugh made several good points as he questioned the respondents’ attorney.

He said that “if it’s the discretion of an individual officer [to approve applications], that seems inconsistent with an objective constitutional right.”

To speak and freely exercise First Amendment rights in public, no special permit is needed. While it’s generally true that balancing the public safety factor is important when it comes to the Second Amendment, the fact that these two amendments are treated differently is inconsistent with how the Founding Fathers intended for all amendments to be equally treated.

It should be enough to say that because someone lives in or has to frequently visit areas with violent crimes, they should have proper cause to carry a handgun for self-defense. The respondents’ attorney argued that it depends on how urban or densely populated an area is, along with how many armed police officers there are.

Given that New York City is more dangerous than upstate New York, city residents are more likely to want, even need, to rely on their Second Amendment rights especially when there are no police officers nearby, yet it’s harder to get a carry license there than in upstate New York.

The likelihood of someone getting approved, even with good moral character and no criminal record, is low.

The petitioners, Robert Nash and Brandon Koch were both denied carry permits despite having experience with firearms, which should have been sufficient for approval. Just because they didn’t face a unique danger to their lives, it shouldn’t be a valid rejection of their right to bear arms in public for self-defense.

Giving licensing officers the discretion and power to decide which citizens may exercise a fundamental right expressed in the Constitution is blatantly antithetical to the Constitution.

Even New Yorkers who “work late at night and wait for public transportation in high-crime areas,” wouldn’t be granted carry permits as a rule, as conceded by the respondents’ attorney. If this kind of biased discretionary system was used on citizens with regard to any other constitutional rights, courts would quickly strike it down.

New York’s law in its current form renders the Second Amendment guarantee to keep and bear arms as a privilege rather than a right. That’s not how it should be.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Mayor-elect Eric Adams have concerns over this case, primarily from a public safety viewpoint.

While safety is certainly a factor that can be used to determine which specific, sensitive public places can prohibit firearms, such as libraries, it cannot be used to serve as a prior restraint to prevent people from being able to defend themselves with firearms outside of their home completely.

By the end of the arguments, the majority of the justices appeared likely to strike down or limit New York’s law.

If the court correctly rules in favor of the petitioners, New York could be forced to rewrite its law to allow more citizens to carry firearms in public for self-defense, with clearer criteria and less discretionary hurdles.

In addition, New York could become a “shall issue” state, which would compel licensing officers to approve applications if they meet objectively set state requirements, such as meeting the minimum age and having no felony criminal activity.

While some advocates will argue that allowing more citizens to carry firearms in public for self- defense will lead to an increase in uncontrolled gun violence, the result would be the opposite.

Allowing more good citizens to legally carry guns will lead to more deterrence and a higher likelihood that they will be able to successfully defend their families and themselves against criminals.

New York is one of the most restrictive states when it comes to allowing citizens to legally have firearms, yet it declared a statewide gun violence emergency in July ignoring the fact that most of the gun violence is a direct consequence of illegal, not legal, firearms.

Most states, both liberal and conservative states included, adopted a “shall issue” system in recent decades, yet they have less violence than in New York.

More focus should be put on getting illegal firearms off the streets and fighting the increase in crime, rather than pursuing unconstitutional means of preventing law-abiding citizens from carrying handguns in public for the legitimate reason of self-defense.

The Supreme Court has not taken up any major Second Amendment cases in over a decade, and it must use this opportunity now to strike down New York’s law by ruling in favor of the petitioners, and affirming the right of ordinary law-abiding citizens to carry firearms outside of their home for self-defense.