WASHINGTON (AP) – The Supreme Court has issued its largest decision on arms rights for more than a decade. Here are some questions and answers about what Thursday’s decision does and does not do:
WHAT IS THE SUPREME NEXT DECISION ON WEAPONS?
The Supreme Court said Americans have the right to carry firearms in public for self-defense. This is important because approx a dozen states has conditional on obtaining a permit to carry a gun publicly by the person demonstrating a real need – sometimes called a “good cause” or “real cause” – to carry the weapon. It limits who can carry a weapon in these states.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court rejected New York’s demands for a “real case,” but the laws of other states are expected to face rapid challenges. About a quarter of the U.S. population lives in states that are expected to be affected by the ruling.
The last time the court issued major weapons rulings was in 2008 and 2010. In those decisions, the judges established a nationwide right to keep a gun for self-defense in a person’s home. The question to the court this time was only about carrying a gun outside the home.
Judge Clarence Thomas wrote in the court’s majority opinion that the court also extended outside the home: “Nothing in the text of the second amendment distinguishes between home and public with regard to the right to retain and bear arms.”
HOW DID THE JUSTICE RULE?
The gun ruling divided the court 6-3, with the court’s conservative judges in the majority and its liberals in the dissent. In addition to Thomas, the majority view was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. The three liberals of the court who were dissidents are the judges Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
ARE NEW YORKERS NOW FREE TO CARRY A WEAPON IN PUBLIC?
Not exactly. The judges did not touch on other parts of New York’s gun laws, so other requirements for obtaining a license remain. The court made it clear that the state can continue to get people to apply for permission to carry a weapon, and can place restrictions on who is entitled to a permit and where a weapon may be carried. In the future, however, New Yorkers will no longer be required to give a specific reason why they want to be able to carry a gun in public.
The decision also does not take effect immediately, and state lawmakers said Thursday they planned to revise the licensing rules this summer. They have not yet detailed their plans. Some options being discussed include requirements for firearms training and a clean criminal record. The state can also ban small arms from being carried in certain places, such as near schools or on public transport.
In addition, the decision does not deal with the law recently enacted in New York in response to the Buffalo Grocery Massacre, which, among other things, banned anyone under the age of 21 from buying or possessing a semi-automatic rifle.
WHICH OTHER STATES ARE PROBABLY AFFECTED?
A handful of states have laws similar to New York. The Biden administration has counted California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island as all with laws similar to New York. Connecticut and Delaware are also sometimes referred to as states with similar laws.
WHAT CAN THE STATES DO TO REGULATE WEAPONS AFTER THE DECISION?
Judge Brett Kavanaugh, along with Chief Justice John Roberts, noted the limits of the decision. States can still require people to get a license to carry a gun, Kavanaugh wrote, and condition that the license on “fingerprints, a background check, a check of mental health records and training in firearms handling and in laws regarding the use of force, among other things. other possible requirements. ” Weapons control groups said states could review and perhaps increase those requirements. States may also say that persons licensed to carry a pistol must not do so openly, but must conceal their weapons.
Judge Samuel Alito noted that the decision said “nothing about who is legally allowed to possess a firearm or the requirements that must be met to buy a gun.” States have long banned criminals and the mentally ill from possessing weapons, for example. The decision also said nothing “about the kind of weapons that people might possess,” Alito noted, so states can also try to limit the availability of specific weapons.
The judges also suggested that states may completely ban the carrying of weapons in certain “sensitive places.” An earlier ruling by the Supreme Court mentioned schools and government buildings as being places where weapons could be excluded. Thomas said the historical record shows that legislative assemblies, polling stations and courthouses can also be sensitive places. Thomas said the courts can “use analogies to the historical rules of ‘sensitive places’ to rule that modern rules prohibiting the carrying of firearms in new and analog sensitive places are constitutionally permissible.”
HOW DOES THE COURT EVALUATE WEAPON RESTRICTIONS FORWARD?
The court made it more difficult to justify arms restrictions, although it is difficult to know what the new test announced by the court will mean for a specific regulation.
Thomas wrote that the country’s appellate courts have used an incorrect standard to assess whether such laws are inadmissible. Courts have generally taken a two-step approach, first looking at the text of the constitution and the history to see if a regulation falls under the second amendment, and then, if it does, looking at the government’s justification for the restriction.
“Despite the popularity of this two-step approach, it is a step too far,” Thomas wrote.
From now on, Thomas wrote, the courts can only uphold rules if the government can prove that they fall within traditionally accepted limits.
Among state and local restrictions already challenged in a federal court are bans on the sale of certain semi-automatic weapons, called combat rifles by opponents, and large-capacity ammunition magazines, as well as minimum age requirements to purchase semi-automatic firearms.
WHAT OTHER GREAT RULES ARE IN THE WORK?
The Supreme Court heard arguments in the arms case back in November and a decision was awaited before the court begins its summer break. The court has nine more statements to make before taking a break and plans to release more on Friday. Waiting is still one major abortion decision.
Associated Press editor David Caruso contributed to this report from New York.