News of the Supreme Court granting a case against New York’s restrictive concealed carry law provoked stark reactions from either side of the gun debate on Monday.
Anticipating the case could end with monumental changes to gun laws across the country, gun-rights groups cheered as gun-control groups braced themselves. Both sides argued the case could produce far-reaching consequences. They disagreed over whether those consequences were good or bad for the country.
“I’m really glad,” Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, told The Reload. “I expect to see New York’s law struck down.”
Hannah Shearer, litigation director at the Giffords Law Center, was not glad. She described the court’s decision to take the case, which the lower court decided in favor of New York, as “reckless.” She warned the Court not to strike down the law because “such an extreme decision” would go against the “overwhelming majority of Americans” and Giffords’ view of the Second Amendment.
“The Supreme Court’s willingness to take up this case is a reckless response to our nation’s grief and could take us in the completely wrong direction by restricting commonsense gun safety regulation,” Shearer said in a statement. “Today’s announcement is a warning sign that our nation’s highest court is poised to brush aside the will of the people and instead side with gun lobby groups seeking to eliminate even the most modest firearm laws.”
Most of the gun groups appeared to agree on the likely outcome of the case. With 6 Republican-appointed justices to 3 Democrat-appointed ones, the groups have concluded it is likely the Court will strike down the restrictive New York “may issue” concealed carry law at issue in the case–something that could impact laws in more than half a dozen other states. Adam Kraut, senior director of legal strategy for the Firearms Policy Coalition, said the most pressing question left to answer is just how far the court will go in its ruling.
“We’re hopeful that it will be positive,” Kraut, whose group is supporting the challenge, told The Reload. “And it’s just a matter of to what extent.”
Kraut said the court could strike down New York’s requirement that concealed carry permit applicants provide a reason beyond general self-defense to obtain a concealed carry permit as it is being applied to just the plaintiffs in the case and then tell the lower courts to reexamine it. Or it could strike down the requirement generally and force New York and other jurisdictions with similar laws to rewrite them completely. The Court could even go a step beyond that and set a new standard for federal courts to use when deciding all Second Amendment cases going forward.
“We could be looking at a positive outcome with a very clear ruling that guides the lower courts as to this specific issue and potentially reaffirms the test that the lower courts should be applying,” he said.
The National Rifle Association (NRA), which is also backing the case, said it is “hard to overstate how important this case is” and pointed out it had been more than a decade since the last major gun ruling from the Court.
“The Court rarely takes Second Amendment cases,” Jason Ouimet, head of the NRA’s lobbying arm, said in a statement. “We’re confident that the Court will tell New York and the other states that our Second Amendment right to defend ourselves is fundamental and doesn’t vanish when we leave our homes.”
Everytown for Gun Safety, the largest gun-control group in America, agreed the stakes in the case are high “particularly high now” and predicted disaster if the court sides with the plaintiffs.
“Gun violence has only worsened during the pandemic, and a ruling that opened the door to weakening our gun laws could make it even harder for cities and states to grapple with this public health crisis,” Eric Tirschwell, managing director of Everytown Law, told The Reload.
He said the Court should side with New York’s restrictions because lower “courts have repeatedly backed states’ authority to pass public safety laws, and while the Supreme Court’s makeup has changed, the Constitution has not.” Though, federal circuits have been split on the constitutionality of concealed carry laws like New York’s for several years now–something that likely prompted the Court to take up this case.
Hearings in the case have not yet been scheduled.