In a monumental, 6-3, 135 page decision in New York Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that the right to keep and bear arms extends outside the home.
For background, the State of New York makes it a crime to possess a firearm without a license, whether inside or outside the home. An individual who wants to carry a firearm outside his home may obtain an unrestricted license to “have and carry” a concealed “pistol or revolver” if he can prove that“proper cause exists” for doing so. N. Y. Penal Law Ann. §400.00(2)(f ).An applicant satisfies the “proper cause” requirement only if he can“demonstrate a special need for self-protection distinguishable fromthat of the general community.” Petitioners Brandon Koch and Robert Nash are adult, law-abiding New York residents who both applied for unrestricted licenses to carrya handgun in public based on their generalized interest in self-defense. The State denied both of their applications for unrestricted licenses,allegedly because Koch and Nash failed to satisfy the “proper cause” requirement. Petitioners then sued respondents—state officials who oversee the processing of licensing applications—for declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that respondents violated their Second and Fourteenth Amendment rights by denying their unrestricted-license applications for failure to demonstrate a unique need for self-defense.
The U.S. Supreme Court held
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. Pp. 8–63
In relation to whether levels of scrutiny should be utilized or any balancing of rights should occur, the Court declares
Since Heller and McDonald, the Courts of Appeals have developed a “two-step” framework for analyzing Second Amendment challenges that combines history with means-end scrutiny. The Court rejects that two-part approach as having one step too many. Step one is broadly consistent with Heller, which demands a test rooted in the Second Amendment’s text, as informed by history. But Heller and McDonald do not support a second step that applies means-end scrutiny in the Second Amendment context. Heller’s methodology centered on constitutional text and history. It did not invoke any means-end test such as strict or intermediate scrutiny, and it expressly rejected any interest-balancing inquiry akin to intermediate scrutiny…The Second Amendment “is the very product of an interest balancing by the people,” and it “surely elevates above all other interests the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms” for self-defense.
The Court continues
To determine whether a firearm regulation is consistent with the Second Amendment, Heller and McDonald point toward at least two relevant metrics: first, whether modern and historical regulations impose a comparable burden on the right of armed self-defense, and second, whether that regulatory burden is comparably justified. Because “individual self-defense is ‘the central component’ of the Second Amendment right,” these two metrics are “ ‘central’ ” considerations when engaging in an analogical inquiry.
Applying this standard against Koch and Nash, the Court declares
(1) It is undisputed that petitioners Koch and Nash—two ordinary, ordinary, law-abiding, adult citizens—are part of “the people” whom the Second Amendment protects. See Heller, 554 U. S., at 580. And no party disputes that handguns are weapons “in common use” today for self-defense. See id., at 627. The Court has little difficulty concluding also that the plain text of the Second Amendment protects Koch’s and Nash’s proposed course of conduct—carrying handguns publicly for self-defense. Nothing in the Second Amendment’s text draws a home/public distinction with respect to the right to keep and bear arms, and the definition of “bear” naturally encompasses public carry. Moreover, the Second Amendment guarantees an “individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation,” id., at 592, and confrontation can surely take place outside the home. Pp. 23–24.
(2) The burden then falls on respondents to show that New York’s proper-cause requirement is consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation. To do so, respondents appeal to a variety of historical sources from the late 1200s to the early 1900s. But when it comes to interpreting the Constitution, not all history is created equal. “Constitutional rights are enshrined with the scope they were understood to have when the people adopted them.” Heller, 554 U.S., at 634–635. The Second Amendment was adopted in 1791; the Fourteenth in 1868. Historical evidence that long predates or postdates either time may not illuminate the scope of the right. With these principles in mind, the Court concludes that respondents have failed to meet their burden to identify an American tradition justifying New York’s proper-cause requirement. Pp. 24–62.
After reviewing the Anglo-American history of public carry, the Court concludes that respondents have not met their burden to identify an American tradition justifying New York’s proper-cause requirement. Apart from a few late-19th-century outlier jurisdictions,American governments simply have not broadly prohibited the public carry of commonly used firearms for personal defense. Nor have they generally required law-abiding, responsible citizens to “demonstrate a special need for self-protection distinguishable from that of the general community” to carry arms in public.The constitutional right to bear arms in public for self-defense is not “a second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees.” McDonald, 561 U. S., at 780 (plurality opinion). The exercise of other constitutional rights does not require individuals to demonstrate to government officers some special need. The Second Amendment right to carry arms in public for self-defense is no different. New York’s proper-cause requirement violates the Fourteenth Amendment by preventing law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to keep and bear arms in public. Pp. 62–63.
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