Gun Control Live Updates: Supreme Court Decision and Senate Vote

Written by Javed Iqbal

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Americans have a broad right to arm themselves in public, striking down a law in New York that set strict limits on carrying weapons outside the home and sparked a fight in other states, which have similar restrictions.

The decision is expected to spur a wave of lawsuits that seek to loosen existing state and federal restrictions and will force five states – California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey, home to a quarter of all Americans – to rewrite their laws.

The ruling follows the mass shootings last month in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas, and was handed down on a day when the Senate approached the approval of a set of modest arms control measuresa major step toward ending a year-long stalemate in Congress.

The 6-to-3 decision again illustrated the power of the six conservative judges, who all voted to crack down on New York law, in setting the national agenda for social issues. The three liberal members of the court were dissents.

The second amendment, Judge Clarence Thomas wrote to the majority, “protects an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.” States can continue to ban guns in places like schools and government buildings, Judge Thomas wrote, but the ruling left open where exactly such bans could be allowed.

Moments after the ruling was issued, Governor Kathy Hochul of New York promised to convene the Legislative Assembly again already next month to adopt new measures that can allow the state to maintain existing rules. Democratic lawmakers in Maryland also suggested they would rewrite the legislation to survive expected legal challenges.

“We are already dealing with a major arms violence crisis,” Hochul said. “We do not need to add more fuel to this fire.”

The so-called so-called case can issue laws, which give officials considerable discretion with regard to issuing gun licenses.

In a concurrent statement, one that seemed to limit the opinion of the majority, Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, along with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., wrote that “must issue” laws used objective criteria and presumably remained constitutional. States were generally free to require, he wrote, “fingerprints, a background check, a check of mental health records, and training in the handling of firearms and in laws regarding the use of force.”

Judge Kavanaugh also cited in detail the court’s 2008 decision in the District of Columbia v. Heller, which appeared to support other restrictions.

President Biden condemned the verdict, describing himself as “deeply disappointed”. It “is against both common sense and the Constitution and should deeply concern us all,” he added.

Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online. “The court has made it clear that the second amending right to bear arms is not limited to the home,” said Larry Keane, a top official in the arms industry’s best-selling trade group, the National Shooting Sports Foundation. “That the burden is on the government to justify restrictions, not on the individual to justify to the government a need to exercise their rights.”

The stock prices of arms manufacturers rose on Wall Streetwith Smith & Wesson climbing more than 9 percent.

Jonathan Lowy, a lawyer at Brady, a weapons control group, said the decision was a serious mistake. “With a stroke of the pen,” he said in a statement, “the Supreme Court today has invented a presumed right to carry, virtually anywhere, loaded weapons – to potentially shoot and kill other people.”

The case was about a lawsuit from two men who were denied the licenses they were applying for in New York, saying that “the state makes it virtually impossible for the ordinary law-abiding citizen to get a license.”

The men, Robert Nash and Brandon Koch, were authorized to carry weapons for target exercises and hunting away from populated areas, state officials told the Supreme Court, and Mr Koch was allowed to carry a gun to and from work.

Judge Thomas wrote that citizens may not be required to explain to the government why they were trying to exercise a constitutional right.

“We know of no other constitutional right that a person can exercise only after demonstrating to government officials a special need,” he wrote.

“That’s not how the first amendment works when it comes to unpopular speech or free religious practice,” he added. “That’s not how the Sixth Amendment works when it comes to a defendant’s right to confront witnesses against him. And that’s not how the Second Amendment works when it comes to public transportation for self-defense.”

The majority opinion promulgated a general standard by which courts should now assess restrictions on gun rights, one that relies on historical assessments: “The government must demonstrate that regulation is consistent with this nation’s historical tradition of firearms regulation.”

By focusing heavily on history, Judge Thomas rejected the standard used by most lower courts, which considered whether the law promoted an important government interest.

He acknowledged that the historical inquiry now required by the court would not always be straightforward.

Judge Thomas wrote that states remained free to ban weapons in sensitive locations, giving a few examples: schools, government buildings, legislatures, polling stations, and courthouses. But he warned that “extending the category of ‘sensitive places’ to all places in the public assembly that are not isolated from law enforcement defines the category of ‘sensitive places’ too broadly.”

In the dissent, Judge Stephen G. Breyer said the majority’s guidance was inadequate, leaving the vague scope of the court’s decision unclear.

“What about subways, nightclubs, cinemas and sports stadiums?” Justice Breyer wrote. “The court does not say that.”

Justice Breyer’s dissent, along with Judges Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, focused on the deadly amount of gun violence.

“By 2020,” he wrote, “45,222 Americans were killed by firearms. Since the beginning of this year, there have been 277 reported mass shootings – on average more than one a day. Gun violence has now surpassed motor vehicle accidents as the most common cause of death among children and young.”

In a joint statement, Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. responded. on the dissent.

“It is difficult to see what legitimate purpose can be served at all by most of the dissent’s long introductory paragraph,” he wrote. “Why, for example, do the dissenters think it is relevant to report on the mass shootings that have taken place in recent years? Do the dissenters believe that laws like New York prevent or deter such atrocities?

“Will a person who is willing to carry out a mass shooting be stopped if he knows that it is illegal to carry a handgun outside the home?” asked Justice Alito. “And how does the dissent explain the fact that one of the mass shootings near the top of the list took place in Buffalo? The New York law at issue in this case apparently did not stop this perpetrator.”

Justice Breyer questioned the majority’s method of judging the constitutionality of the gun control laws in the case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. The Bridge, Nos. 20-843.

“The court’s almost exclusive reliance on history is not only unnecessary, it is deeply impractical,” he wrote. “It imposes on the lower courts a task that judges cannot easily perform.”

Judges, he wrote, are not historians. “Legal experts typically have little experience in answering disputed historical questions or using those answers to solve contemporary problems,” he wrote, adding: will be of little help, to courts facing modern problems. “

In the Heller decision, the Supreme Court has recognized an individual right to store weapons in the home for self-defense. Since then, it has been virtually silent about the scope of the rights to another amendment.

In fact, for many years the court rejected numerous appeals in cases concerning the Second Amendment. Meanwhile, lower courts generally maintained laws on arms control.

The court’s reluctance to hear Second Amendment cases changed as its membership moved to the right in recent years. President Donald J. Trump’s three nominees – Judges Kavanaugh, Neil M. Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett – have all expressed support for gun rights.

And the most conservative members of the Supreme Court have long lamented the court’s reluctance to explore the meaning and scope of the second amendment.

In 2017, Judge Thomas wrote that he had discovered “a disturbing trend: the treatment of the Second Amendment as an unallocated right.”

“For those of us who work in marbled halls, constantly guarded by a vigilant and dedicated police force, the guarantees of the Second Amendment may seem outdated and redundant.” Justice Thomas wrote. “But the inventors made a clear choice: They reserved for all Americans the right to bear arms for self-defense.”

Glenn Thrush contributed with reporting.

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Javed Iqbal

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