Right to carry: Supreme Court brings Second Amendment to the streets

Austin, Texas; Savannah, Ga.; and New York

In its biggest Second Amendment ruling in over a decade, the U.S. Supreme Court today said that Americans have a right to carry a handgun in public.

As it enters the final week of a controversial term – the court is expected to push federal law to the right in a number of areas, including abortion and climate regulation – the ruling in this closely watched case significantly expands gun rights. Delivered along the high court’s ideological divide, the decision also comes a month after a mass shooting at a Texas elementary school left 21 people, including 19 children, dead – a fact not lost on the dissenting justices.

Today’s ruling continues a throughline in America toward prioritizing Second Amendment rights for individuals. Half of U.S. states have adopted permitless carry or constitutional carry, which offers few, if any, restrictions on purchasing or carrying a handgun. Americans purchased a record number of guns – 23 million – in 2020 during the pandemic. There are an estimated 400 million guns in a country of 332 million people, or 120 guns per 100 residents.

Why We Wrote This

The Supreme Court’s ruling Thursday underscores just how dramatically Second Amendment jurisprudence has shifted in recent decades.

The country has continued to wrestle with how to reduce gun deaths, which also reached a record high in 2020, at a time when firearms have proliferated and the Second Amendment has become a top priority among conservatives. The ruling comes the same week that the first gun safety bill in roughly 25 years is making its way through the Senate with bipartisan support.

The 6-3 ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen strikes down a New York regulation requiring individuals to have “proper cause” to carry a handgun outside the home. State licensing officials decided what qualifies as proper cause. Six other states have similar rules, which the court said today do not pass constitutional muster.

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