Analysis: US Supreme Court ruling provides ammunition for gun laws

By Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Supreme Court ruling lifting New York state restrictions on carrying concealed pistols in public is likely to provide legal ammunition to challenge other regulations in the country, even if Congress passes considering modest reforms.

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

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

The decision also clarified for future cases how courts should judge whether regulations are valid under the Second Amendment, requiring them to be similar to the kind of restrictions traditionally applied in U.S. history stretching back centuries.

As a result of the ruling, government agencies defending gun restrictions must present additional arguments that the law in question is consistent with that history.

Because many gun laws are not easily comparable to historical restrictions, this can leave them vulnerable to legal attack. These include bans on assault-style 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 this view will lead to a huge amount of lawsuits over the constitutionality of gun restrictions,” said Adam Winkler, a Second Amendment expert at UCLA School of Law in Los Angeles.

The ruling is “written so broadly that a wide range of gun safety laws are called into question,” Winkler added. That could include provisions of some modest gun safety legislation currently under consideration by Congress, Winkler said.

A bipartisan package of modest gun security measures was presented in the US Senate on Thursday. The legislation aims, among other things, to tighten up background checks for potential arms buyers who have been convicted as minors for domestic violence or serious crimes. It does not include broader measures favored by Democrats, including President Joe Biden, such as a ban on assault rifles or high-capacity magazines.

Royce Barrondes, a University of Missouri law professor who teaches firearms law, said he expects some previous gun regulation challenges that have been dismissed by courts “will be more likely to succeed after this case.”

Among the state rules that are now “suspicious” are restrictions on giving firearms licenses to people from outside the state and a ban on “standard capacity” ammunition magazines, which can vary based on model, Barrondes 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 ruling made some concessions, recognizing that governments could ban firearms in certain “sensitive areas” and that regimes used in 43 states to issue concealed carry permits when certain requirements are met are likely to be legal. to be.

Two conservative judges who joined the ruling offered some parameters as to its scope. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, in agreement with Chief Justice John Roberts, wrote that the decision has a number of limitations, most notably some licensing requirements states enforce, including background checks and firearms training.

Kavanaugh and Roberts could be pivotal voices in future gun cases. If they join the three Liberal judges, that would be enough to forge a majority in a future ruling.

As such, gun control proponents were hopeful that many regulations would pass legal scrutiny, even under the Supreme Court’s new test.

Jonathan Lowy, a lawyer with the gun control group Brady, said laws banning high-capacity magazines and semi-automatic assault-style weapons should be enforced because the Supreme Court had already ruled in a 2008 ruling that an individual’s right to bear arms in house that there is a historical tradition that supports a ban on ‘dangerous and unusual weapons’.

Thursday’s ruling noted that in some cases “implying unprecedented societal concerns or dramatic technological change, a more nuanced approach may be needed”.

Barons said that while he didn’t think that language was designed to validate bans on assault rifles, “I wouldn’t rule out lower courts using that as a tool to validate such a ban.”

Lowy and other gun control activists expressed frustration that the court’s conservative majority, they say, used selective historical evidence to invalidate New York’s measure, while ignoring history that favored the state, which they fear would could be the same approach that was used in subsequent cases.

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

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung; editing by Will Dunham)

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