US Supreme Court building

Supreme Court Takes up Gun Rights

US Supreme Court building
The Supreme Court will decide in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Corlett (docket no. 20-843) whether New York can limit carry permits to applicants who show special “cause.” (Photo: Tierney)

For the first time in over ten years, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up an important Second Amendment case.

The Court’s long-overdue decision to hear this major gun rights case could have enormous repercussions with lasting effects on gun owners’ right to carry weapons in public.

New York Rifle & Pistol Association v. Corlett

This case is a challenge to New York’s permit laws, which prohibit concealed carry without a permit – but deny permits unless the applicant can demonstrate “proper cause,” defined by state courts as a “special” need to carry a gun.

In fact, the courts have erroneously ruled that a general desire for self-defense isn’t enough to qualify New Yorkers for a carry permit, even if they live in a high-crime area.

The result? Only special classes of individuals can carry in New York, and ordinary, law-abiding citizens are completely blocked from their Second Amendment right to bear arms – unless they are well-connected to politicians or insiders.

This case challenges New York’s denial of permits for general self-defense purposes. 

“The situation in New York is the same thing we’re seeing all across the country to varying degrees – namely, the good ole boy politicians who treat Second Amendment rights as a favor they get to dole out to their friends and family members,” said Dudley Brown, NFGR’s Executive Director.

“It’s time for the Supreme Court to stop treating the Second Amendment as a ‘second-class right’ and admit that the Second Amendment means exactly what it says.”

“Keep” vs. “Bear”

In its landmark Second Amendment rulings D.C. v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago (2010), the Supreme Court established that the Second Amendment protected an individual right to self-defense, and that the right is not tied to militia service.

Heller and McDonald specifically protected the right to keep firearms in the home for self-defense purposes, but also clearly established that the Second Amendment guarantees the individual’s right to have weapons “in case of confrontation” (a scenario which is certainly not limited to the home!).

However, the lower courts for the most part have ignored Heller when it comes to the right to public carry, the most recent example being the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Young v. Hawaii that there is no Second Amendment right to open carry.

The current case before the Supreme Court deals with the right to bear arms – the other half of the Second Amendment that Heller did not specifically address.

Massive implications for the right to carry

The implications for gun owners’ right to carry a gun in public are enormous. The Supreme Court could issue a broad ruling striking down unconstitutional gun regulations all over the country, or a narrow ruling that doesn’t settle the real issue.

The Supreme Court also has the opportunity with this case to severely curtail or even destroy the Second Amendment right to carry a weapon in public.

The National Foundation for Gun Rights is preparing to file a legal brief arguing that the Second Amendment means exactly what it says, and the Supreme Court should rule accordingly.