States brace for battle over gun laws after Supreme Court ruling

PROVIDENCE, RI (AP) — The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn a New York gun-license law has led states with robust firearms restrictions to try to respond on two fronts — to find out what concealed carry measures they’re allowed to impose, while also preparing to defend a wide range of other gun control policies.

The language in the court’s majority opinion raised concerns that other state laws, from instituting an age limit for buying guns to banning high-capacity ammunition magazines, could now be compromised.

“The court has, in effect, invited an open season on our gun laws, and so I expect lawsuits across the board,” said Acting Attorney General Matt Platkin, a New Jersey Democrat. “We are going to defend our gun laws tooth and nail because these gun laws save lives.”

The court ruling Thursday specifically overturned a New York law in effect since 1913 that required people applying for a concealed carry license to demonstrate a specific need for a weapon in public, such as showing an immediate threat to their safety. The court’s conservative majority said this violated the Second Amendment, which they interpreted as protecting people’s right to carry a weapon for self-defense outdoors.

While the ruling doesn’t address other laws, majority opinion opens the door for gun rights advocates to challenge them in the future, said Alex McCourt, the director of legal research for the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions.

Pro-firearms groups in several states said they planned to do just that.

Attorney Chuck Michel, president of the California Rifle and Pistol Association, said the group is preparing to expand its legal challenges based on the Supreme Court changing the legal standard used to judge whether gun control laws are constitutional. .

Courts must now only consider whether a gun control ordinance is consistent with the actual text of the Second Amendment and its historical interpretation, according to Thursday’s ruling. Before that, judges could also consider a state’s social justification for passing a gun control law.

Michel said the standard will affect three prominent California laws. Legal objections to the state’s limits on assault weapons, his requirement for background checks for purchasing ammunition and his ban on selling ammunition online are pending before a federal appeals court.

“All of these laws should be scrapped under this new Supreme Court standard,” he said.

The Supreme Court is also considering including the California law banning ammunition magazines with more than 10 bullets, as well as a similar law in New Jersey. He expects the court to consider those laws under the new standard.

The new restrictive gun law landscape outlined in Thursday’s majority opinion is not without escape routes for states, especially for states that may want to impose restrictions on concealed carry permits.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh, along with Chief Justice John Roberts, said: states can still require: people to get a license to carry a gun and that on things like background checks and mental health records. They may also restrict where guns are allowed, suggesting states could ban firearms in “sensitive places” such as schools, courthouses or polling stations.

That leaves an opening for governors and state legislators in New York and the six other states with similar hidden carry laws: California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.

In California, lawmakers are changing legislation to expand the qualifications people must have to get a concealed carry license and to determine the places where guns are off-limits. The revised bill will be heard for the first time on Tuesday, and lawmakers hope to send it soon to Governor Gavin Newsom, who called Thursday’s Supreme Court decision shameful.

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

Most state legislators are either wrapping up their sittings or already finished for the year, so any response would likely have to wait until next year. Rhode Island Democratic State Representative Robert Craven, a lawyer, said he would study the opinion in the New York case to determine whether or not it raises a concern that Rhode Island’s claims could be challenged, and whether it can. be remedied by legislation.

He questioned whether the Supreme Court will now take a strict interpretation of the Second Amendment — that the right to bear arms is absolute — and apply it to other laws, such as those banning military-style weapons.

“I see the court heading that way,” Craven said.

In Hawaii, Democratic state Senator Chris Lee said lawmakers will try to determine how else to ensure public safety and will look at screening, education requirements and ways to keep guns out of certain public areas — provisions the judges said would be allowed. .

“The bottom line is that Hawaii is about to become a more dangerous place,” said Senator Karl Rhoads, a Democrat. “Hawaii is moving from a place where the right to wear in public is an exception to a place where not having the right to wear in the street is an exception. I see no restriction on the type of firearm.”

Gun rights groups in Hawaii and elsewhere welcomed the ruling. In Maryland, Mark Pennak, chairman of a gun rights group challenging that state’s hidden carry law, said he is “absolutely ecstatic” at the Supreme Court decision because there is “just no way” to defend the law any longer.

The Democratic leaders of the Maryland General Assembly said they would pass legislation if necessary that would meet the new precedent but still protect residents.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, criticized the court’s ruling for restricting how states can handle the proliferation of firearms in public, but vowed to protect the state’s gun control measures. He said his government believes the state can still control who can carry concealed weapons and where they can take them.

He vowed that his government will “do everything in our power to protect our citizens”.

Associated Press writers Bobby Caina Calvan in New York; Mike Catalini in Trenton, New Jersey; Jennifer Kelleher in Honolulu; Alanna Durkin Richer in Boston; Don Thompson in Sacramento, California; Marina Villeneuve in Albany, New York; and Brian Witte in Annapolis, Maryland, contributed to this report.

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