Pistols on display at the National Shooting Sports Foundation fair in Las Vegas, Nevada.
WASHINGTON – The US Supreme Court’s ruling in the most important gun law case in more than a decade does not mean a New Yorker can now openly carry an AR-15 rifle into a movie theater.
But they might eventually be able to bring in a concealed and loaded pistol.
In a 6-3 decision in a case brought against New York’s gun license rules, the conservative-dominated court ruled that Americans have a basic right to carry a concealed handgun in public.
The ruling marks a major legal shift on the gun control issue, but it will likely take time before the real impact on US city streets and citizens is felt:
– New York vows to fight back –
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul called the Supreme Court’s decision “reprehensible” and promised to enact a new state gun control law.
“We don’t need people entering our subways, our restaurants, our cinemas with concealed weapons,” Hochul said.
New York City Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell warned New Yorkers that nothing has changed.
“If you carry a gun illegally in New York City, you will be arrested,” she said.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams vowed to use “every available legal means” to ensure “New Yorkers are not put at greater risk from gun violence.”
New York, the fourth-largest state in the United States with a population of 19.3 million, has some of the toughest gun laws in the country.
Illegal possession of a loaded firearm outside one’s home or place of business is a criminal offense punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Adams, the mayor, said the city will begin identifying sensitive locations where guns may be prohibited by law.
– ‘Sensitive Places’ –
In its ruling, the Supreme Court said it was “established” law that guns could be banned in some “sensitive locations” such as schools, government buildings, polling stations and courthouses.
But they left it to the lower courts to determine exactly what other places can be added to the list.
Jeffrey Fagan, a law professor at Columbia University, said the court “established a precedent that there are extremely limited circumstances when you are not allowed to carry a firearm.”
Fagan predicted a “game of cat and mouse” between local government, who wanted to limit the right to carry one hand, and the gun lobby and conservatives, who wanted to expand that right.
“Can you carry a gun into a church? Can you carry a firearm on public transport? Can you carry a gun into a movie theater?” he asked. “I think it’s going to be an interesting time of experimentation.”
– Effects on other states –
According to gun control group Giffords, about half of the 50 states allow the illegal carrying of concealed firearms in public, while the other half allow some form, but with restrictions.
A number of US states also allow the open carrying of rifles, including semi-automatic weapons, and several recent protests across the United States have featured heavily armed protesters.
The Supreme Court ruling will have immediate implications for the five states with similar laws to New York — California, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts and Hawaii — and the nation’s capital, Washington.
Joseph Blocher, a law professor at Duke University, said he expects these states to “try to differentiate their laws from New York.”
They could argue that their laws are less stringent and allow less discretion for the licensing agency, said Blocher, co-director of the Center for Firearms Law.
“But I would expect that in litigation there will be strong pressure to revise or scrap their laws,” he added.