Overview:

The court's decision striking down New York's gun restrictions puts all gun control laws in the country at risk.

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In a June 23 ruling, New York gun restrictions that prevented most forms of concealed carry outside of the home were deemed unconstitutional by a conservative Supreme Court.

Top Democrats were quick to announce their feelings about the court’s decision

“I call on all Americans across the country to make their voices heard on gun safety. Lives are on the line,” said President Biden, who also said he was “deeply disappointed” by the decision. New York Governor Kathy Hochul said that the ruling “could place millions of New Yorkers in harm’s way,” and called it “reprehensible.” 

Leading gun control organizations were also quick to respond. “We’re currently doing a careful reading of the entire decision in NYSRPA v. Bruen and will give more detailed analysis later today,” said Everytown for Gun Safety, a non-profit focused on gun control. “But the fact that the court ruled against New York makes it clear that it chose to put lives at risk and showed indifference to public safety.”

Republican leaders were quick to take the other side, praising the court for expanding the rights of gun owners. “While states like NY have tried to restrict your constitutional 2nd Amendment right through burdensome laws and regulations, today’s Supreme Court ruling rightfully ensures the right of all law-abiding Americans to defend themselves without unnecessary government interference,” tweeted Republican House minority leader Kevin McCarthy

The shock waves are likely to extend well beyond New York, setting a precedent that potentially imperils all existing gun control restrictions passed in state legislatures. In the opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the Constitution protects “an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.”

If the Court maintains that individuals have the right to carry guns at all times, then state and local legislation banning firearms from specific venues may be unconstitutional. Firearms may soon be allowed in K-12 schools, colleges and universities, hospitals, malls, and other public spaces. It could effectively leave no way for states to limit the carrying of firearms. 

The Court’s liberal minority spelled out the perils of this message in their dissent. “Since the start of this year alone, there have already been 277 reported mass shootings—an average of more than one per day,” wrote Justice Stephen Breyer

In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that Americans had the right to keep firearms in their homes. Now, it is effectively ruling that Americans can carry firearms virtually anywhere, limiting the scope of state legislatures’ ability to manage the gun crisis. 

The Supreme Court’s decision is also out of step with what the public wants. A majority of Americans want stronger gun control measures. Conservatives are a strong majority on the Supreme Court, while Republicans remain a minority nationally. Republicans have only won the national vote in a Presidential election once since 1992, 30 years ago. Perhaps this is part of the reason American trust in the Supreme Court continues to hit new lows in polling. 


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The Court’s conservative majority has made its ruling on guns and is set to rule on other flashpoint issues such as abortion and affirmative action later this summer. Consistently ruling in favor of conservative interests, the Court has not been afraid to rule in opposition to public opinion. In the short term, this can provide Republicans with political wins to show to their conservative base. But in the long term, it can erode public trust in the High Court, making all American institutions weaker in the process. And if Americans don’t trust their institutions, the entire country is at risk.

Marcus Johnson

Marcus Johnson is a political commentator and a political science Ph.D. candidate at American University. His primary research focus is the impact of political institutions on the racial wealth gap.