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Today the Supreme Court decided New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, a challenge to a New York State law that barred residents from obtaining a carry permit unless they could show “proper cause.” Proper cause, in turn, required the applicant to “demonstrate a special need for self-protection distinguishable from that of the general community.”
Under the Court’s controlling precedents, Heller and McDonald, I think the New York law was obviously unconstitutional. The Court has held that self-defense is the core purpose of the Second Amendment, which means that members of the “general community”–not just those who “demonstrate a special need”–are entitled to keep and bear arms. So, contrary to many news accounts, today’s holding did not “expand” gun rights. It re-confirmed what the Court has already held more than once, and it rejected balancing tests that some courts have used to try to evade Heller and McDonald.
Today’s decision was 6-3, with Justice Thomas writing the majority opinion and the Court’s arch-liberal wing holding out. No surprise there. If anything is surprising about the Bruen case, it is that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals voted to uphold the New York law. I find it hard to see how that ruling represented a good faith attempt to apply Heller and McDonald.
On Twitter, I noticed a blue-check liberal noting the outrageous contradiction that the Court today held that the Constitution limits the states’ ability to regulate firearms, while it is widely expected that the Court soon will hold that the Constitution does not limit the states’ ability to regulate abortions. I couldn’t resist responding that a subtle distinction is at work here: the Constitution explicitly protects the right to keep and bear arms, while it says nothing about abortion. But what can you expect from a liberal?