By CASEY HARPER
THE CENTER SQUARE SENIOR REPORTER
(The Center Square) — The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a major gun rights case this week that could have significant implications for Second Amendment rights nationwide.
The high court will hear arguments Wednesday in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, a case involving New York state’s strict laws around carrying firearms. Several states have joined the case in defense of Second Amendment rights.
In the case in question, Robert Nash and Brandon Koch applied to receive concealed carry licenses, but their request was denied.
Under the New York law, state officials say concealed carry permits may only be granted when the applicants establish “proper cause” beyond a “non-speculative need for self-defense.” According to officials, the men did not meet that threshold.
“Absent such a need, applicants may receive a ‘premises’ license that allows them to keep a firearm in their home or place of business, or a ‘restricted’ license that allows them to carry in public for any other purposes for which they have shown a non-speculative need — such as hunting, target shooting or employment,” the states’ defense wrote. “The individual petitioners here received restricted licenses.”
Mr. Nash pointed to several robberies near his home in an appeal to the denial. A New York affiliate of the National Rifle Association has partnered with the two gun owners to file their legal challenge, which is now before the Supreme Court.
They argue New York residents should be allowed to carry a weapon without being forced to meet the state’s high and arbitrary standard.
“A law that flatly prohibits ordinary law-abiding citizens from carrying a handgun for self-defense outside the home cannot be reconciled with the Court’s affirmation of the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation,” the challengers said in their filing. “The Second Amendment does not exist to protect only the rights of the happy few who distinguish themselves from the body of ‘the people’ through some ‘proper cause.’ To the contrary, the Second Amendment exists to protect the rights of all the people.”
District of Columbia v. Heller, a landmark gun rights case in 2008 that discussed “the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation,” was a major win for Second Amendment advocates. The court’s affirmation of that right to self-defense paved the way for citizens to push for having guns in the home even when local governments forbid it.
The Heller case addressed “prohibition on the possession of usable handguns in the home” and decided that such a prohibition was not constitutional.
Now the court will consider how that right to carry a weapon for self-defense continues outside the home.
“New York prohibits its ordinary law-abiding citizens from carrying a handgun outside the home without a license, and it denies licenses to every citizen who fails to convince the state that he or she has ‘proper cause’ to carry a firearm,” the challengers wrote in a court filing.
The Heller case could become the crux of the legal challenge.
“It is enough to note, as we have observed, that the American people have considered the handgun to be the quintessential self-defense weapon,” the late Associate Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the Heller opinion. “Handguns are the most popular weapon chosen by Americans for self-defense in the home, and a complete prohibition of their use is invalid.”
Several states have weighed in on the case, filing a joint brief in defense of Second Amendment rights. Those states include Arizona, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.
Casey Harper works for The Center Square’s Washington, D.C., bureau.