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US Supreme Court strikes down NY law limiting firearms in public

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In a major extension to gun rights, the Supreme Court said on Thursday that Americans have the right to carry firearms in public.

the judges 6-3 decision follows a string of recent mass shootings and is expected to eventually allow more people to legally carry guns on the streets of the country’s largest cities — including New York, Los Angeles and Boston — and elsewhere. About a quarter of the US population lives in states expected to be affected by the ruling, the Supreme Court’s first major gun decision in more than a decade.

The ruling comes as Congress works to approve gun laws after mass shootings in Texas, New York and California.

Judge Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority that the Constitution “protects a person’s right to carry a gun outdoors for self-defense”.

In their decision, the judges overturned a New York law that requires people to demonstrate a specific need to carry a gun in order to obtain a license to carry one in public. The judges said the requirement violates the Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms.”

California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island all have similar laws. The Biden administration had urged judges to uphold the New York law.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said the decision comes at a particularly painful time as New York continues to mourn the deaths of 10 people in a mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket. “This decision is not just reckless. It is objectionable. It’s not what New Yorkers want,” she said.

In a dissent joined by his Liberal colleagues, Judge Stephen Breyer focused on the toll taken by gun violence. “As of the beginning of this year (2022 alone), 277 mass shootings have been reported — an average of more than one per day,” Breyer wrote.

Supporters of the New York law had argued that knocking it down would lead to more guns on the streets and more violent crime. Gun violence, which had already increased during the coronavirus pandemic, has risen again.

In most countries, gun owners have little difficulty carrying their guns legally in public. But that had been harder in New York and the handful of states with similar laws. The New York law, in effect since 1913, says that in order to carry a concealed gun in public, a person applying for a license must demonstrate “good reason,” a specific need to carry the gun.

The state issues unrestricted licenses that allow a person to carry their weapon anywhere and limited licenses that allow a person to carry the weapon but only for specific purposes such as hunting and shooting at targets or to and from their business.

The Supreme Court last issued a major gun decision in 2010. In that decision and a 2008 ruling, the judges established a nationwide right to keep a gun at home for self-defense. The question in court this time was about wearing one outdoors.

The New York law was challenged by the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, which describes itself as the nation’s oldest firearms advocacy group, and two men seeking an unrestricted ability to carry guns outside their homes.

The court’s ruling differs somewhat from public opinion. About half of voters in the 2020 presidential election said gun laws in the US should be made tougher, according to AP VoteCast, a comprehensive poll of the electorate. An additional third said the laws should be enforced as they are, while only about 1 in 10 said gun laws should be less strict.

About 8 in 10 Democratic voters said gun laws needed to be tightened, VoteCast showed. Among Republican voters, about half said the laws should be enforced as they are, while the remaining half are narrowly divided between more and less strict.

(AP)

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