by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
In the 2008 case of District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court recognized the individual right to gun ownership in the home. In the 2010 case of McDonald v. Chicago, it recognized that the right of individual gun ownership extended to states and local municipalities. This week, in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, the court found that “New York’s proper-cause requirement violates the Fourteenth Amendment by preventing law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms in public for self-defense.”
Surely no one really believes that “bearing arms” in the Second Amendment was meant to restrict gun ownership to the home. But New York’s gun restrictions demand that a law-abiding citizen beg permission from government officials, and then overcome a slew of subjective and discretionary standards, before being able to exercise a constitutional right. There is no historical or legal support for such restrictions. They are plainly authoritarian.
“We know of no other constitutional rights that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need,” Justice Clarence Thomas noted in the majority opinion. “That is not how the First Amendment works when it comes to unpopular speech or the free exercise of religion. It is not how the Sixth Amendment works when it comes to a defendant’s right to confront the witnesses against him. And it is not how the Second Amendment works when it comes to public carry for self-defense.”
As the court noted, there are still five states with “may-issue” gun carry laws that are similar to New York’s — California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey. All of them are now likely unconstitutional. And perhaps other gun restrictions will be challenged, as well.