Supreme Court New York Gun Case Decision and Implications Nationwide
Right to Carry Case Affirms Carrying Guns in Public for Self-Defense: How it Impacts New York and Beyond
An earth-shattering ruling for some, an expansion of gun rights for others, and a return to the constitution for others still, one thing is for certain: the Supreme Court just made a major decision about concealed carry laws and regulations with impacts nationwide.
The case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc., et al. v. Bruen, Superintendent of New York State Police, et al., saw its long-awaited conclusion on June 23, 2022, when the United States Supreme Court deemed New York’s requirements to concealed carry a gun while in public places a violation of citizens’ rights. While the decision and its impacts appear isolated to New York on the face of it, the Supreme Court in fact upheld the fundamental right of citizens to carry firearms beyond the confines of their homes for self-defense purposes. Understanding this gun case, the key questions that it raised, how the Supreme Court interpreted and applied the foundational documents of our nation and existing case law on the subject, and what the ruling on firearms carrying could mean for other states is essential. With that in mind, let’s dive in.
Issues Involved in NY Concealed Carry Case Decided by the Supreme Court
The case involves the denied applications of Brandon Koch and Brandon Nash, who sought an unrestricted license to carry a handgun for self-defense in the state of New York. Citing a failure to show a special need for protection, which is required above and beyond the average person’s desire to carry a firearm to defend themself should any threat to their safety arise, New York state authorities denied the applications. Koch and Nash sued, alleging a violation of their Fourteenth and Second Amendment rights.
What the Supreme Court Decided
The District and Appellate courts dismissed the case, citing prior case law that affirmed New York’s legitimate need for the law. However, the Supreme Court agreed with the appellants that the law violated their Fourteenth and Second Amendment rights to bear arms as ordinary citizens seeking self-defense. Relying on District of Columbia v. Heller, 553 U.S. 570, and McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 742, the Court reasoned that those cases affirmed an individual’s Second Amendment rights to bear arms for self-defense. On the other hand, New York’s gun law does not follow firearms regulation history and tradition.
The Court further struck down one of the two prongs that courts have implemented and used to decide state gun regulation cases subsequent to Heller and McDonald. One prong is the Second Amendment case law history, and the other is a means-ends examination. In other words, New York’s justification for its gun restrictions is that the law has a justifiable reason, protecting the state’s population. The means, which is the law requiring a special need to carry a gun, is said to justify the ends, which is the substantial governmental interest in protecting the public. The Court stated that only history is relevant, thus determining that the second prong extends too far.
Aside from the typical handguns that may be concealed carry weapons, the judges specifically ruled out other weapons that qualify as dangerous and unusual, like assault firearms. Another portion of the opinion mentions current bans on guns in sensitive places, like courthouses and legislative houses. The concurring opinions of Justices Kavanaugh and Roberts expand sensitive sites to include schools and government buildings.
What Striking Down New York’s Gun Law Could Mean on a National Scale
The ruling puts in jeopardy all state gun laws that also restrict gun possession in public places based on individual assessments by those who review gun permit applications. Thus, other states like New Jersey may see handgun carry permit policies and procedures subject to court challenges. The nation can expect to see gun law challenges for decades, along with courts grappling with interpreting the Court’s recent decision and the true meaning of the Constitution as it applies to firearms laws and regulatory schemes in individual states. If challenged, the state would have to make a case for the law’s support in earlier times, analogizing the law to traditional firearms regulation historically.
Does the Supreme Court’s Decision on Carrying Guns in New York Influence New Jersey?
New Jersey’s law is like New York’s in licensing gun owners to conceal carry guns. As it stands, the law in New Jersey allows some people to obtain permits to carry handguns, but not all. The permit is extremely hard to get. There are basic criteria that you must meet and then some other factors that may be debatable. The applicant must apply to the local police chief or police superintendent who initially reviews the application before it is ultimately decided in the Superior Court. There is much variability among permit applicants who obtain approval or face denial. Someone can be denied a gun permit based on the discretion of the application reviewer, not a standard set of criteria that qualify them unquestionably for a permit to carry a handgun in this state. For instance, the “good character” requirement allows for much interpretation. So too did the current “justifiable need” standard, which was recently removed from the mandatory criteria for a permit to carry a handgun.
Prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bruen, an applicant had to show a justifiable need for a carry permit, such as real threats to an individual’s life. For example, a security guard who faces lethal threats in performing their job may qualify for such a license, or anyone else with an urgent need for self-protection. However, since the ruling in the Bruen case, the New Jersey Attorney General published new guidance via Directive No. 2022-07, which acknowledges that the state cannot continue to impose the justifiable need requirement for handgun carry permits.
In the meantime, New Jersey just passed a series of new gun laws to enhance restrictions on gun permits and other firearms-related issues. As it stands, you can go to prison for five to ten years for carrying a handgun without a permit (N.J.S. 2C:39-5(b)). New Jersey carry permits are seldom approved. Moreover, if you do not transport your firearm locked and secured according to law, the state could also charge you with illegally possessing a firearm. If you are arrested for a gun crime, you will need excellent representation to avoid the severe ramifications. For unlawfully possessing one handgun, with no criminal record, you could be sentenced to up to a decade in prison. That’s anywhere from 5 to 10 years of your life spent incarcerated.
Talk to the Tormey Law Firm’s criminal defense lawyers to discuss your gun charges if you have been arrested for a firearms-related offense in New Jersey. Only you and your attorney can fully understand all of the relevant details and determine the best course of action for your interests and circumstances. We serve clients charged with weapons offenses statewide, including in Middlesex County, Ocean County, Hudson County, Union County, Somerset County, and Passaic County. Don’t hesitate to receive a free consultation by contacting (201)-556-1570 now.