People walking a dog greet police officers and their dog in front of the US Supreme Court building that is still on trial during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Washington, United States, on April 26, 2021 Public was closed.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a major dispute over the second amendment that could determine whether the constitution protects the right to carry guns in public.
The decision, announced in a resolution, comes after President Joe Biden faces pressure from activists to take action to limit the availability of high-powered weapons amid outcry over mass shootings.
Proponents of increased arms control measures have raised concerns that the country's highest court, which has a 6-3 majority of Republican candidates, could expand the scope of the second amendment.
In two landmark cases, more than a decade ago, the Supreme Court ruled that the second amendment protects the right of individuals to carry a weapon indoors for self-defense. Last year, it declined to make a material decision on its first major case of the second amendment since then.
In the case where the court cleared a hearing on Monday, the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association against Keith Corlett, No. 20-843, individuals and a state organization are opposing a New York law under which individuals "Correct Reason" must be given to obtain permission to openly carry a pistol.
Robert Nash and Brandon Koch, the people who brought the suit, both applied for licenses to carry handguns for self-defense and were refused. A district court found that neither man had any reasonable cause for neither facing "a particular or unique danger to his life."
A federal appeals court upheld the lower court's decision not to license the men.
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In their appeal to the Supreme Court, drafted by former Attorney General Paul Clement, the men argued that New York law was under the precedents of the District of Columbia Supreme Court v Heller ruled in 2008 and McDonald v City of Chicago is unconstitutional. decided in 2010.
"As this court made clear in both Heller and McDonald's, the second amendment essentially guarantees the right to keep and carry weapons for self-defense," wrote Clement. "Like the threats that a need for self-defense could create, this individual and fundamental right necessarily extends beyond the four walls of one's own home."
New York attorney general Letitia James wrote a brief letter to the judges not to approve the case that New York law was compatible with the Heller and McDonald Supreme Court rulings. In McDonald's, the court wrote that its opinion was not intended to lift certain "long-standing bans" on the use of weapons.
James wrote that New York law has existed in the same essential form since 1913 and "is backed by a centuries-old tradition of state and local measures regulating the public transport of firearms".
In addition, she wrote, "New York law directly promotes the overriding interests of the state to protect the public from gun violence."
It was widely expected that the Supreme Court would soon take up another major case related to the second amendment.
In its most recent tenure, the court cleared another New York State Rifle & Pistol Association case contesting rules governing the transportation of handguns outside of New York City. The court ultimately refused to rule on the case after city and state officials overturned the policy. A majority of the judges ruled that the case was contentious or no longer relevant.
However, at that point, three of the court's Conservatives, Judges Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas, said they had not dismissed the case. A fourth, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, said he agreed with the majority's decision but hoped the judges would "soon" raise another case of the second amendment.
The court surprised observers a few months later when it refused to hear any of the ten cases of the second amendment that the judges had reached.
At that time, Thomas was questioning the court's refusal to hear a case arising out of a New Jersey law similar to the New York law challenged by Nash and Koch.
The conservative judiciary wrote: "In several jurisdictions across the country law-abiding citizens have been banned from exercising the basic right to arms because they cannot demonstrate that they have a" legitimate need "or" good reason "to do so."
"One would think that such an onerous burden on a fundamental right would warrant review of this court," added Thomas.
A decision is expected by summer 2022.