Political scientist discusses upcoming Supreme Court ruling on gun limits


A case that should attract attention when it comes to the Supreme Court this summer will be New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Brun. With this case, the court will decide whether New York State’s denial of petitioners’ requests for self-defense concealed carry licenses violates the Second Amendment. More broadly, the court will consider whether to strike down a New York state law that restricts people’s ability to carry guns in public.

Currently, New York requires people to demonstrate that they have a specific need to carry a handgun in public. However, based on questions posed by some of the Tory justices, it seems to imply that they may be considering overturning the law.

“I think the Second Amendment is one of the most poorly written parts of the Constitution,” said Rob Robinson, associate professor of political science. “Take a look. “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms will not be infringed.

“This has two interpretations: The first interpretation is that the states were afraid of a tyrannical federal government, which might try to disarm their state militias. The Second Amendment can therefore be seen as a guarantee of federalism that the states, not the federal government, control and fund the militias.

“The second interpretation has similar concerns, but the idea is that individuals, rather than states, would be the protective mechanism against tyranny, just as individuals use their freedom of speech or their right to petition to have a policy impact.”

Robinson points out that for most of the country’s history, no one knew which interpretation was correct, and, indeed, no one cared much. That changed in 2008 when the court heard District of Columbia v. Heller.

Robert Robinson

“The takeaway from this first and only ‘modern’ gun case was that the individual rights model prevailed. The Second Amendment was now also based on self-defense and that flat-rate handgun bans were unconstitutional. Thus, individual rights win (a 5-4 decision) based on self-defense.

“However, Judge Antonin Scalia said that not all gun regulations are unconstitutional,” he continued. “He said: ‘Nothing, in our view, should be taken to cast doubt on long-standing prohibitions on the possession of firearms by criminals and the mentally ill, or laws prohibiting the carrying of weapons fire in sensitive locations such as schools and government buildings.'”

This then raised the question: how should lower courts assess laws that regulate guns but do not prohibit them?

New York has passed a concealed carry law, but individuals must show “just cause” to obtain a license.

“So the court will determine if this is a constitutional limitation on gun rights,” Robinson said. “Heller isn’t much help here as a precedent because it only applies to home possession.

“One of the questions is, what is the scope of the Second Amendment? Does it give you the right to carry guns outside the home? If so, what is its scope? What standard will protect him Did the New York petition violate the Second Amendment?

“In this case, the gun rights petitioner (Bruen) argues that the Second Amendment gives citizens the right to carry in public, that the petition process is too strict for self-defense needs, and that the process is discriminatory.

“Defendant (New York) argues that we have a long history of states regulating public transportation, that guns in public are bad for free speech and safety, that self-defense arguments are weaker in public places and that federalism is good (let the states decide).

“I predict New York will lose,” Robinson said. “The question is, will he lose narrowly or ‘roughly?’ How far will the court go in this case?

“The court could say that New York’s ‘proper cause’ determination is too vague or arbitrary to stand, but makes no broader rule about gun rights. Or he could use the case to launch some sort of standard or test that states must meet to regulate guns in a number of contexts.

As to whether the recent mass shootings, particularly that of the elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, could affect the court’s decision, Robinson isn’t sure. “I guess the majority of the courts would think something like, ‘It’s our job to interpret the Constitution, not worry about politics. If all the mass shootings to date haven’t affected their way of thinking, I don’t think one more will tip the scales.

He noted, however, that given the firestorm that a strong opinion in favor of gun rights could cause, the court might have decided to suspend the announcement of this case by now.

“Then again, these types of cases are normally released at the very end of the term, whatever.”

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