NEW YORK - In its first major gun ruling in more than a decade, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday struck down New York's concealed carry law that has been in place for more than a century.
The law required gun owners to prove that they have a "special need" — or "proper cause," in the statute's language — to carry a concealed handgun in public for self-defense. New York courts had ruled that just wanting to protect oneself without demonstrating a "proper cause" wasn't enough to obtain a license.
But in a 6-to-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the law violates the U.S. Constitution by preventing law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms in public for self-defense.
The case — New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen — began in 2014 when two men from upstate New York were denied concealed carry permits. The New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, or NYSRPA, filed a lawsuit on their behalf.
"New York's proper cause requirement violates the Fourteenth Amendment by preventing law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms in public for self-defense," Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority.
In the dissenting opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer, along with the court's two other liberal justices, cited the massive number of gun crimes across the country.
"Many States have tried to address some of the dangers of gun violence just described by passing laws that limit, in various ways, who may purchase, carry, or use firearms of different kinds," Breyer said. "The Court today severely burdens States' efforts to do so."
This was the court's first case on gun rights since Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the bench in October, giving the court a 6-3 conservative majority.
Before Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, the court had turned down a review of the same issue.
President Joe Biden called the ruling "deeply disappointing."
"This ruling contradicts both common sense and the Constitution, and should deeply trouble us all," Biden said.
NYSRPA Executive Director Tom King called this a landmark win for gun advocates.
"It's about time they finally got it right," King said. "The courts are finally doing something to protect the Second Amendment rights of New York State citizens."
But groups like New Yorkers Against Gun Violence and March for Our Lives said this ruling puts lives at risk.
"We already know what happens when people can, without limit, carry firearms in public — people die," March for Our Lives's Yvin Shin, a judicial advocacy associate, told FOX 5 NY.
"While this is a devastating decision, it is by no means going to paralyze us," Rebecca Fischer of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence said. "We will continue to keep up the fight."
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul reacted to the ruling, calling it a shocking ruling and a "dark day."
"It is outrageous that at a moment of national reckoning on gun violence, the Supreme Court has recklessly struck down a New York law that limits those who can carry concealed weapons," Hochul said. "In response to this ruling, we are closely reviewing our options – including calling a special session of the legislature."
Hochul later met with the mayor of Albany, Buffalo, New York City, Rochester, Syracuse, and Yonkers — the state's six largest cities — to discuss the impact of the ruling.
"My team has been preparing for this decision and exploring every possible action, and we are in discussions with the legislature about our legislative options," she said in a statement. "We are not powerless, and we will do everything in our power to protect New Yorkers."
New York City Mayor Eric Adams said the ruling "will put New Yorkers at further risk of gun violence." He said his administration was closely reviewing the court's ruling.
New York is among eight states that have limited who has the right to carry a weapon in public. The others are California, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. The ruling is expected to affect laws in all of those states.
The website of the NYSRPA, which is affiliated with the NRA, states the group has been "dedicated to the preservation of Second Amendment rights, firearm safety, education and training, and the shooting sports" since 1871.
With The Associated Press.