The Supreme Court of the United States and the American flag
The Supreme Court of the United States and the American flag / Stephen Gutowski

Analysis: Will SCOTUS Striking Down May-Issue Carry Laws Actually Help Disadvantaged People Carry Guns? [Member Exclusive]

It’s fairly clear the Supreme Court is poised to strike down New York’s restrictive may-issue gun carry law. What’s far less clear is whether their decision will actually help those who aren’t relatively well off.

The Supreme Court is, of course, difficult to predict. And some experts have noted the outcome may not necessarily be a slam dunk for gun-right advocates. There is a real possibility the Court could punt or even uphold New York’s law.

But the most likely outcome is a ruling against the arbitrary nature of New York’s law. It’s unlikely the Court would have taken this case at all if they didn’t plan to reverse the lower court ruling upholding New York’s law. But the Court has been hesitant to initiate huge shifts in federal law overnight over the last decade or so.

So, they are unlikely to find gun-carry permitting to be completely unconstitutional. They’ll probably settle on eliminating the subjective aspects of may-issue permitting systems, effectively making shall-issue permitting the bare minimum law of the land. So, local and state governments won’t be able to arbitrarily deny permits to anyone able and willing to go through the permitting requirements.

That will be a significant boon to many of those who want to legally carry but live in one of the 8 states with may-issue laws–which could be up to 25 percent of the population.

But, recent history shows, it won’t be a boon to everyone. Illinois and Washington, D.C. were forced by federal courts to trash their may-issue laws in favor of shall-issue ones. They did exactly that, and more residents have been able to obtain permits as a result.

However, both localities have been able to put significant burdens on obtaining licenses. They require specialized 16-hour training programs that cost hundreds of dollars on top of the hundreds they charge in application and fingerprinting fees. And they require live-fire training while Washington, D.C., and Chicago have kept any public ranges from opening within city limits.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is another example of how officials who favor more restrictions on gun carry can impact even longstanding shall-issue laws in a state. While the number of gun-carry permits soared in the rest of the state during 2020, Philly found ways to restrict the process so much they actually issued fewer permits. And they consistently issue fewer permits than many other counties in the state–11 in 2020–despite having the largest population.

Though state or city officials can’t outright deny applicants a permit for not having what they deem a “good reason” for one, they can still make it extremely difficult for those without the means to obtain one. Many working-class people live inside cities that don’t own cars or have the kind of free time and money to make it through onerous permitting processes.

Even if the court does strike down may-issue gun-carry laws, government officials who don’t want civilians to carry guns will still have plenty of ways to restrict permits, mainly to well-off applicants.

Of course, this phenomenon is not limited to gun-carry permits. It’s a common issue with gun-purchase permits in places like Chicago and New York City as well. And gun-rights advocates have begun to have success challenging the arbitrary and restrictive nature of high permit fees. Perhaps this problem will be alleviated after a one, two punch of SCOTUS rulings.

Just don’t expect a ruling in the latest gun-carry case, even one that goes in favor of gun-rights advocates, to realistically open up permits for every law-abiding American who wants one.

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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