(CNN/WJZ) — The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a New York gun law enacted more than a century ago that places restrictions on carrying a concealed handgun outside the home.
“Because the State of New York issues public-carry licenses only when an applicant demonstrates a special need for self-defense, we conclude that the State’s licensing regime violates the Constitution,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the court’s 6-3 majority.READ MORE: Maryland Gas Tax Set To Increase, Some Legislators Call For Another Tax Holiday
The opinion changes the framework that lower courts will use going forward as they analyze other gun restrictions, which could include the proposals currently before Congress if they eventually become law.
In a statement, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) said the decision would only bring more death and pain to “a country already awash in gun violence.”
“If the norm is that people can carry firearms, our neighborhoods, our streets and other public places will become more dangerous,” he said. “It will make the lives of law enforcement more difficult and more perilous. The epidemic of gun violence sweeping our nation demonstrates daily the folly of introducing more guns into this boiling cauldron.”
Frosh said his office will determine of the ruling has any impact on Maryland’s gun laws, adding he will “continue to fight to protect the safety of Marylanders.”
Gun owners wishing to obtain a wear and carry permit in the state must secure a license through the Maryland State Police, a process that involves submitting fingerprints and completing a firearms training course.
Maryland’s law appears to have a similar provision to New York’s, saying applicants should have a “good and substantial reason to wear, carry, or transport a handgun, such as finding that the permit is necessary as a reasonable precaution against danger,” according to the Maryland State Police website.
Under the law, applicants between the ages of 18 and 21 can only obtain a wear and carry permit if it is required as part of their job.
Anyone convicted of a drug possession crime or received a prison sentence of one year or more for a felony or misdemeanor cannot get a permit, according to the Maryland State Police website.
In a joint statement, Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) and House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County) said they “fundamentally disagree” with the ruling and believe the Second Amendment allows for “reasonable restrictions” on gun rights.
“More guns in public means more violence, and more violence means more death and heartache everywhere,” they said. “This is the wrong answer.”
The lawmakers also said they would review the Supreme Court’s decision to determine its impact on Maryland.
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said the ruling would make it difficult to create a safe city.
“At some point, the sanctity of American lives must outweigh the sanctity of American guns,” he said. “This decision puts lives at risk and makes removing guns from our streets even more difficult. I’ve asked the law department to study the opinion to let me know all of its implications. Regardless, I will not be deterred from my work to build a better, safer future for all Baltimoreans.”
Maryland State Police said its Licensing Division is conducting a legal review of the ruling.
Only about a half dozen states have similar laws to New York’s — California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey — have similar regulations, but those states are comprised of some of the most densely populated cities in the country.
Twenty-five states generally allow people to carry concealed weapons in most public spaces without any permit, background check or safety training, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
In his opinion, Thomas said that going forward the government “may not simply posit that the regulation promotes and important interest,” instead he said the judges must look to text and history when deciding whether a law passes muster.
“Only if a firearm regulation is consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition may a court conclude that the individual’s conduct falls outside the Second Amendment’s unqualified command,” Thomas said.READ MORE: Persons Of Interest Sought In Fells Point Shooting, Police Say
In a dissent joined by the other liberals, Justice Stephen Breyer noted the spate gun violence and said that the court, listing several recent shootings, including the massacre at the Buffalo grocery store earlier this year. Thursday’s ruling “severely burdens States’ efforts” to curb gun violence, Breyer wrote.
“The primary difference between the Court’s view and mine is that I believe the Amendment allows States to take account of the serious problems posed by gun violence that I have just described,” Breyer wrote. “I fear that the Court’s interpretation ignores these significant dangers and leaves States without the ability to address them.”
Justice Samuel Alito, in a concurring opinion, pushed back: “And how does the dissent account for the fact that one of the mass shootings near the top of its list took place in Buffalo? The New York law at issue in this case obviously did not stop that perpetrator.”
The conservative justices also dismissed concerns defenders of New York’s gun law raised about how the law restricted the carrying of firearms into sensitive places.
“It is true that people sometimes congregate in ‘sensitive places,’ and it is likewise true that law enforcement professionals are usually presumptively available in those locations. But expanding the category of ‘sensitive places’ simply to all places of public congregation that are not isolated from law enforcement defines the category of ‘sensitive places’ far too broadly,” Thomas wrote.
Since handing down two major Second Amendment cases in 2008 and 2010, the court has largely dodged the issue but agreed to take up the dispute after Justice Amy Coney Barrett arrived, highlighting her impact on the new conservative court.
In 2008’s District of Columbia v. Heller, the court held for the first time that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms at home for self-defense. Except for a follow-up decision two years later, the justices largely stayed away from the issue infuriating gun rights advocates and even some of the justices themselves.
Thomas and other conservatives have made clear they believe lower courts have been thumbing their noses at the Heller decision by upholding restrictions. “The Second Amendment is a disfavored right in this court,” Thomas has previously said.
The case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, concerned a New York law governing licenses to carry concealed handguns in public for self-defense. It required a resident to obtain a license to carry a concealed pistol or revolver and demonstrate that “proper cause” exists for the permit. Residents must show that they have a great need for the license and that they face a “special or unique danger to their life.”
The law requires applicants who want to carry a handgun in public without restriction to show an “actual and articulable” self-defense need, as opposed to one that is “speculative or specious.”
A panel of judges on the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals held that New York’s law did not violate the Second Amendment.
The Biden administration supported New York and told the Supreme Court in a brief that while the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms, the right is “not absolute.”
Acting Solicitor General Brian Fletcher told the justices that the law was “firmly grounded” in the nation’s history.
The petitioners in the case were Robert Nash, Brandon Koch and the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association — an NRA affiliate. They were represented by Paul Clement, a George W. Bush-era solicitor general who argued that that the Second Amendment ensures a right not just to “keep arms,” but to bear them.
Nash and Koch had passed the required background checks and obtained licenses to carry guns for hunting and target practice, but they had not been able to establish a special need for self-defense that is required under the law to receive an unrestricted license.
Clement argued that the law makes it almost impossible for an ordinary individual to obtain a license because the “proper cause” standard is so demanding and left to the “broad discretion” of the licensing officer.
“Good, even impeccable, moral character plus a simple desire to exercise a fundamental right is,” Clement said, “not sufficient.” “Nor is living or being employed in a high crime area.”
Nash, for instance, requested to carry a handgun for self-defense after a string of robberies in his neighborhood. But he was denied because he did not demonstrate a special need for self-defense. Koch wanted a similar license, and he was able to cite his experience of participating in safety training courses. He too was denied.
Additional reporting from WJZ.com’s Brandon Weigel.MORE NEWS: Early Voting Has Begun In Maryland's Primary Election
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