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Supreme Court bolsters gun owners' right to carry a weapon in public

David G. Savage, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the rights of gun owners to carry a loaded weapon in public, ruling that the 2nd Amendment right to "bear arms" overrides laws in New York and California that restrict who may legally take guns when they leave home.

The court's conservative majority said in a 6-3 ruling that the Constitution puts these decisions in the hands of gun owners, not with local officials, county sheriffs or others who fear that too many guns on the street are a threat to public safety.

Writing for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas said New York's restriction violates the Constitution "in that it prevents law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to keep and bear arms."

The opinion states that the 2nd and 14th amendments "protect an individual's right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home."

The ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association vs. Bruen is the most significant victory for gun rights since 2008, when the justices for the first time ruled the 2nd Amendment protects an individual's right to have a gun and not just states' right to maintain a "well-regulated militia."


It also reflects how President Donald Trump's three appointees have shifted the court to the right. In the last decade, the court had turned away challenges to the permitting laws in California and elsewhere. But the arrival of Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett created a majority to bolster the right to carry a gun.

Gun control advocates had said they feared a high court ruling upholding the right to be armed in public could lead to a massive increase in the number of guns on the street in major cities.

The decision comes following back-to-back mass shootings last month in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, and as Congress prepares to pass a modest bipartisan gun-violence measure, its first in three decades.

The bill would increase background checks for would-be gun buyers aged 18 to 21, and close the "boyfriend" loophole by prohibiting anyone convicted of abuse against a spouse or domestic partner from buying a gun.

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