Supreme Court poised to strike down NY gun law from 1913

Concealed Carry

The US Supreme Court appeared poised Wednesday to overturn a New York law that limits someone’s ability to legally carry a concealed gun in public.

The conservative-leaning high court listened to about two hours of arguments in a case brought by a New York chapter of the NRA and state weapons owners, who have sought to overturn a 1913 gun control law.

The suit, which was struck down by lower courts, seeks to expand the ability of New Yorkers to legally carry concealed weapons.

The panel’s conservative justices — who outnumber its liberals 6-3 — questioned the current law during Wednesday’s hearing.

According to the law, most applicants seeking to carry handguns without restrictions need to get permission from a state firearms licensing officer and prove they have an “actual” need for the weapon for self-defense.

People participate in a rally against gun violence in New York City in 2019.
EPA / Justin Lane

Justice Samuel Alito questioned why “celebrities, state judges and retired police officers” should be given the right to carry a concealed weapon without going through those steps in New York, while “ordinary, law-abiding” citizens are denied it.


Brett Kavanaugh, a President Donald Trump appointee, wondered why a specific reason should need to be given to apply for a concealed-carry weapon.

“Why isn’t it good enough to say, ‘I live in a violent area, and I want to defend myself’?” he said.

US Supreme Court Justices pose for group photo.
The most recent Supreme Court member is Justice Amy Coney Barrett (upper right), who was appointed on September 29, 2020, giving conservatives a 6-3 advantage on the court.
AP / Erin Schaff

New York Solicitor General Barbara Underwood, who was defending the law, argued there’s a public-safety necessity to limit the number of permits handed out, saying, for example, that the idea of straphangers boarding the subway with handguns “terrifies” people.

Alito pushed back on the argument, saying people carrying guns on the subway is already relatively common but that the current law only blocks “ordinary, hard-working” people from doing so.

Still, the Democrat-appointed justices appeared concerned about the prospect of allowing concealed-carry weapons to proliferate in public spaces.

Image shows the US Supreme Court, viewed behind bars set up around the perimeter.
The suit seeks to expand the ability of New Yorkers to legally carry concealed weapons.
AP / Jose Luis Magana

Justice Stephen Breyer described a hypothetical situation in which drunken sports fans could end up dead if the law is repealed, suggesting it might lead to “gun-related chaos.”

In a statement before the arguments, state Attorney General Letitia James said the gun control law is a backstop for New Yorkers threatened by gun violence.

“Hundreds of years of history support New York’s efforts to limit gun violence and protect public spaces. This is about protecting New Yorkers’ lives,” she said.

With Post wires

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