WASHINGTON: On Thursday, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Americans have a basic right to carry a weapon in public, a momentous decision with far-reaching ramifications for states and communities around the country grappling with an increase in gun crime.
The 6-3 ruling overturns a nearly century-old New York statute that required a person to show a valid self-defence prerequisite, or “proper cause,” in order to get a permit to carry a pistol outside the home.
Several other states, including California, have similar rules, and the court’s decision would limit their authority to prohibit people from carrying firearms in public.
Democratic Vice President Joe Biden said the ruling “contradicts both common sense and the Constitution, and should greatly worry us all.”
“As a society, we must do more – not less – to defend our fellow Americans,” Biden added. “I urge Americans across the country to speak out about gun safety.”
Despite a growing push for gun control following two horrible mass shootings in May, the court agreed with those who said the freedom to possess and carry firearms is guaranteed by the US Constitution.
The decision is the court’s first in a significant Second Amendment issue in more than a decade since it concluded in 2008 that Americans had the right to keep a gun at home for self-defence.
It was a remarkable victory for the National Rifle Association, which launched the lawsuit on behalf of two New York men who had been refused weapons permits.
“Today’s verdict is a watershed victory for decent men and women all throughout America, and it is the culmination of a decades-long campaign spearheaded by the NRA,” NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said in a statement.
“The right to self-defence and the safety of your family and loved ones should not end at the front door.”
New York Governor Kathy Hochul called it a “sad day,” while California Gov. Gavin Newsom called it a “shameful choice.”
“It is terrible that the Supreme Court has carelessly torn down a New York statute that limits people who can carry concealed firearms at a time of national reckoning on gun violence,” Hochul said.
“This is a frightening judgement from a court hellbent on promoting a radical ideological agenda and intruding on states’ rights to defend our citizens from being gunned down in our streets, schools, and churches,” Newsom said on Twitter.
The majority judgement was written by Justice Clarence Thomas, who was backed by the other five conservatives on the nine-member court, three of whom were selected by previous Republican President Donald Trump.
The New York legislation, according to Thomas, hinders “law-abiding persons with ordinary self-defence needs from exercising their Second Amendment right to keep and carry guns in public for self-defence.”
“We conclude that the State’s licencing scheme is unconstitutional,” Thomas stated.
The decision comes as the United States Senate is debating a rare bipartisan package that contains modest gun control measures.
“The verdict,” said Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, “makes it even more vital for Congress to take meaningful actions to safeguard kids and communities from USA’s gun violence pandemic.”
“In a country with almost 400 million weapons, this Supreme Court decision invites more gun fatalities and turmoil in America’s neighbourhoods,” he stated.
On May 14, an 18-year-old used an AR-15-style assault weapon to kill ten African Americans in a Buffalo, New York, supermarket.
Less than two weeks later, another youngster with the same sort of high-powered, semi-automatic weapon shot and murdered 19 children and two instructors at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
In the conclusion, Justice Samuel Alito rejected allegations that weapons outside of homes lead to significant violence, including mass shootings.
“Why, for example, does the dissent believe it applies to recapitulate the recent mass shootings?” he wrote.
According to New York law, in order to be granted a permit to carry a handgun outside the home, a gun owner must convincingly establish that the firearm is specifically required for self-defence.
Gun-control activists said that this violated the Second Amendment, which states that “the right of the people to keep and bear weapons shall not be infringed.”
The Supreme Court’s three liberal judges overturned the verdict.
“Many states have attempted to mitigate some consequences of gun violence,” remarked Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.
“Today, the Court seriously hampers governments’ efforts to do so.”
More than half of the states in the United States currently allow permitless carry of weapons, with most of them only doing so in the last decade.
The New York state statute, which had been in effect since 1913, was founded on the idea that individual states had the authority to restrict gun usage and ownership.
Over the last two decades, over 200 million weapons have been sold in the United States, primarily as assault rifles and personal pistols, fuelling an increase in homicides, mass shootings, and suicides.