Carrying firearms outside the home is legal in New York State

The US Supreme Court on Thursday made clear for the first time that Americans have the right to carry guns outside their homes, in a ruling that threatens to complicate efforts to combat already alarming violence.

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Its six conservative justices, against the advice of their three progressive peers, struck down a New York state law that had imposed severely restricted gun licenses for more than a century.

The decision comes as the United States is still reeling from a series of deadly shootings, one of which killed 21 people at a Texas elementary school on May 24 and urged Republican senators, previously hostile to any gun control, to introduce modest reforms to support.

“Deeply disappointed,” Democratic President Joe Biden regretted an “uncommon sense” stop that “should concern everyone.” New York State’s Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul condemned a “shameful decision in full national awareness of gun violence.”

Kathy Hochul

Conversely, the powerful gun lobby, the National Rifle Association (NRA), celebrated a “magnificent victory” and hailed a “watershed moment for the righteous men and women of America and the result of decades of fighting.”

Specifically, the decision refers to a New York law that, since 1913, has restricted the granting of concealed-carry licenses to persons who have reason to believe that they have to defend themselves, for example because of their job or because of threats against them.

It had been challenged in court by two gun owners who had been denied permits and by a member of the NRA, which advocates a verbatim reading of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.

It was ratified in 1791 and states that “a well organized militia, necessary to the security of a free State, shall not violate the right of the people to possess and bear arms”.

sensitive places

In 1939, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment protected the right to use arms as part of a law enforcement agency such as the military or police, but was not an individual right of self-defense.

She changed her position during a historic court in 2008, establishing for the first time an individual right to have a gun in her home in self-defense.

At the time, however, it left it up to the cities and states to regulate out-of-home transport, so the rules currently vary greatly from place to place.

Thursday’s ruling put an end to that latitude by setting in stone the right to “carry a pistol outside one’s home.”

“Nothing in the Second Amendment discriminates in relation to the carrying of arms between the home or public places,” Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas wrote on behalf of the majority.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas


Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

“Appropriate and well-defined limitations” remain possible, particularly in “sensitive places” like legislatures or courts, but it will be up to the courts to assess them, taking into account American “history and traditions,” he writes.

400 million

The court’s three progressive justices disagreed with the ruling, which they said “severely constrains states’ efforts to curb gun violence.”

The court is acting “without considering the potentially fatal consequences of its decision,” regretted Justice Stephen Breyer on her behalf, recalling that “45,222 Americans were killed by guns in 2020.”

First, the decision was intended to bring down laws similar to New York’s in five other states, including some very populous ones like California or New Jersey, and the city of Washington.

Other restrictions, mainly in force in democratic states, could be challenged in court under this new legal framework.

According to the Small Arms Survey project, there were nearly 400 million guns in circulation among civilians in the United States in 2017, or 120 guns per 100 people.

Last year, more than 20,000 gun homicides were recorded in the Gun Violence Archives.

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