Historically Consistent

By FOCUS, a Leonine Business

The US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn a New York law that restricted how and where residents could carry handguns is the latest jolt to the ongoing gun debate in America. The decision came on June 23, in the wake of mass shootings in New York and Texas, and on the same day the Senate passed Congress’s most significant action on gun legislation in nearly three decades. States with strict gun laws are now scrambling to bypass the Supreme Court’s ruling aimed at dismantling them, while deadly tragedies rage on in America.

The crux of the issue in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen was the requirement that gun owners show “proper cause” to carry a weapon outside the home for self-defense. The majority opinion, penned by Justice Clarence Thomas, decided the requirement violates the Constitution’s guarantee of gun rights. Thomas’s opinion states regulations need to be historically consistent with the Second Amendment. While the ruling was specific to New York’s law; California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia, also have laws that require a good and specific reason to carry a concealed weapon, known as “may-issue” laws, that are now vulnerable.

On June 30, California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 2571, which prohibis the marketing of firearms to minors, and AB 1621, which restricts ghost guns – firearms that are intentionally made untraceable – as well as the parts used to build them.

New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed a series of gun safety legislation on July 5, which will require training to obtain a gun license, outlaw .50-caliber weapons and require handgun owners to register any firearms purchases out of state.

New York Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul signed S 51001, The Concealed Carry Improvement Act, after a special session of the legislature on July 1. The measure bolsters the state’s recently gutted permitting laws by requiring applicants to display “good moral character,” pass a firearm safety course and provide data from their social media accounts as part of background checks. It also declares “sensitive locations,” such as schools and polling places, to be gun free zones.

Conversely, other states have loosened concealed carry laws in alignment with the Bruen ruling. The Massachusetts Attorney General’s office announced revisions ransacking a provision that allowed license restrictions if an application failed to provide a good enough reason for the purchase. Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan announced he has directed the state police to suspend its “good and substantial reason” standards for the issuance of licenses to wear and carry firearms, describing the New York law as “virtually indistinguishable” from the state’s own.

The effect of the Bruen ruling will span well beyond states with “may-issue” laws through the institution of a “historically consistent” requirement. Lower courts throughout the country will have to grapple with a convoluted historical evaluation when considering all future gun restriction legislation. A flood of new litigation over gun restrictions is expected to arise in a year that is shaping up to be our bloodiest yet.