The Supreme Court said on Monday that it will hear a major gun rights case later this year asking whether Americans have a constitutional right to carry firearms outside the home.
The justices will hear a challenge to a New York law that requires anyone seeking a license to carry a gun in public prove they have a good reason to do so. The National Rifle Association and 23 states back the challenge.
Monday’s case could definitively settle unresolved questions over the right to carry beyond the home. A victory for the gun-rights plaintiffs could cast doubt on state laws across the country that place strict conditions on carrying firearms in public. Lawyers for the pro-gun challengers stressed as much in their appeal to the High Court.
“Perhaps the single most important unresolved Second Amendment question … is whether the Second Amendment secures the individual right to bear arms for self-defense where confrontations often occur: outside the home,” the petition reads.
The plaintiffs in Monday’s case, Robert Nash and Brendan Koch, are New York residents who were denied concealed carry permits. The state requires applicants show they have “proper cause” for a concealed carry permit. New York state courts have said “proper cause” means the applicant must “demonstrate a special need for self protection distinguishable from that of the general community.”
At least eight states have similar laws. Hawaii’s limits on carrying in public, which are much like New York’s, survived a challenge in March before the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Hawaii’s licensing regime requires applicants to show they have “reason to fear injury” and makes clear a permit will be granted only in “the exceptional case.”
Judge Jay Bybee wrote that Hawaii’s law was consistent with the history of firearms regulation in England and in the Founding Era. Several other federal appeals courts have turned back challenges to strict permitting regimes on similar grounds. The plaintiffs in Monday’s case said that was a reason for the justices to get involved.
“Millions of law-abiding Americans are suffering a shifting patchwork of denials of a constitutional right that most states, jurists, and this Court recognize as fundamental,” the petition reads.
The justices will hear the case, No. 20-843 New York Rifle and Pistol Association v. Corlett, in the fall or early winter.
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