Politics, Moderate



The Supreme Court's Second Amendment Decision Is No Cause for Panic

Steve Chapman on

The reaction to the Supreme Court ruling on New York's gun laws was a classic case of unjustified panic. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul called it "reckless" and "reprehensible." The liberal Marshall Project said it "guts gun control."

In reality, the decision merely requires the state to do what 43 others have done: set up a system for law-abiding citizens to get permits to carry concealed handguns. It will probably have only a modest effect on the number of people packing in public, and its consequences for crime are likely to be invisible.

Liberals are fond of saying, as they often have in the era of Donald Trump, that we are a nation of laws, not of men. We don't want the president to have the power to punish his enemies on a whim. We want him to be constrained by laws that apply equally to all.

It's the soundest of principles. But when the Supreme Court upheld it in this case, liberals were not applauding.

Most states provide permits to anyone who meets specified requirements: being age 21, passing a background check, getting fingerprinted, paying a fee and so on.

New York, however, is not so impartial. It requires applicants to convince a judge or law enforcement official that they have "a special need for self-protection distinguishable from that of the general community." Living in a crime-ridden area or being a victim of violence is not enough.


This approach invites arbitrary and inequitable decisions. Many big shots have been able to get concealed-carry permits -- including radio host Howard Stern, actor Robert DeNiro and a former reality-TV star named Trump.

But little people can't count on it. Public defenders representing clients in Harlem, the Bronx and Brooklyn filed a brief arguing that Blacks and Latinos, who were disproportionately harmed by the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk tactics, should not have to get its approval to carry guns. Discretion invites discrimination.

What will this decision mean for public safety? Not much. Illinois once refused to allow anyone to carry concealed guns. In 2012, a federal appeals court ruled the policy unconstitutional and ordered the state to begin issuing permits.

Since then, the murder rate in the state has risen, as it has in the nation as a whole. But don't blame this change. Some 315,000 Illinoisans have such permits. A 2019 Chicago Tribune investigation found only two permitholders who have been charged with murder.


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