In a six to three ruling on New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, the court declared unconstitutional a state law requiring concealed carriers in New York to prove that “proper cause exists” for them to carry a handgun.
“In 43 States, the government issues licenses to carry based on objective criteria,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in the majority opinion. “But in six States, including New York, the government further conditions issuance of a license to carry on a citizen’s showing of some additional special need.”
He added, “The Second Amendment guaranteed to ‘all Americans’ the right to bear commonly used arms in public subject to certain reasonable, well-defined restrictions.”
“Those restrictions, for example, limited the intent for which one could carry arms, the manner by which one carried arms, or the exceptional circumstances under which one could not carry arms, such as before justices of the peace and other government officials,” Thomas stated.
None of those examples directly apply to an age restriction on adults carrying.
He continued, “We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need. That is not how the First Amendment works when it comes to unpopular speech or the free exercise of religion. It is not how the Sixth Amendment works when it comes to a defendant’s right to confront the witnesses against him. And it is not how the Second Amendment works when it comes to public carry for self-defense.”
This decision is considered the most significant decision on gun rights since the 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller decision that ruled unconstitutional certain safe storage laws and that the Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms as an individual right, untied to militia service.
The Texas lawsuit — Firearms Policy Coalition, Inc. v. Steven C. McCraw — remains in front of the Northern District Court of Texas. The Bruen decision spurred a reaction from that court.
On Friday, Judge Mark Pittman ordered the two sides to file supplemental briefs addressing Bruen’s effects, if any, on this lawsuit.
The Texas legislature passed permitless carry, known as constitutional carry, in 2021. The lawsuit came a month after the new policy went into effect.
Permitless carry allows all legally applicable Texans the ability to concealed carry without obtaining a license. However, it did not expand the ability to adults under the age of 21 — with a few exceptions such as active military members.
The lawsuit argues that lack of extension violates both the Second Amendment’s individual right to keep and bear arms and the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause.
In Bruen, the court’s opinion does not address the question of under-21 adults hoping to carry — who are also prohibited from concealed carrying in New York, license or no.
A 2013 decision by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a similar case by the National Rifle Association, but the plaintiffs believe that the court ruled in error.
The Firearms Policy Coalition, the plaintiff in the Texas case, is suing along with two Texans between 18 and 21 years of age.
Pittman asked the sides to submit their supplemental briefs by July 8.
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Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.