The conservative leaning Supreme Court will take up another blockbuster issue Wednesday, as they consider the scope of the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms.
It’s been more than a decade since the court has decided a major Second Amendment case, much to the outrage of supporters of gun rights as well as some of the justices themselves. Justice Clarence Thomas once said, for instance, that he thought the Second Amendment is a “disfavored” right on the court.
The new case is called New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, and it concerns a long-standing New York law governing licenses to carry concealed handguns in public for self-defense. It requires a resident to obtain a license to carry a concealed pistol or revolver, but they must demonstrate that “proper cause” exists for the permit.
How the oral arguments will unfold:
- First up will be Paul Clement, one of the finest appellate lawyers in the country who served as solicitor general during the Bush administration. He is presenting Robert Nash and Brandon Koch as well as the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association—an affiliate of the NRA. He told the justices that while his clients passed all the required background checks to obtain licenses to carry guns for hunting and target practice, they have not been able to establish the special need for self-defense that is required under the New York law in order to receive an unrestricted license. Clement is expected to tell the justices that the law makes it almost impossible for an ordinary individual to obtain a license because the standard is so demanding. He said in court papers that “good, even impeccable” moral character is not enough.
- Next up will be New York Solicitor General Barbara Underwood. She is expected to cite the historical scope of the Second Amendment to argue that the law should pass legal muster. In court papers she told the justices that if they accept Clement’s arguments it would “break with seven centuries of history and have devastating consequences for public safety.” She said it could even threaten restrictions that states have adopted to protect the public in sensitive places like courthouses, airports, subways, houses of worship and schools.
- The Biden administration is supporting New York. Principal Deputy Solicitor General Brian H. Fletcher is expected to tell the court that for centuries lawmakers have protected the public by passing reasonable regulations. “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms,” Fletcher told the justices in court papers, “but that right is not absolute.”