Supreme Court Questions Limits of New York Gun Law

Roberts sounds open to overturning state restrictions
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 3, 2021 5:47 PM CDT
Supreme Court Questions Limits of New York Gun Law
Demonstrators rally Wednesday outside the U.S. Supreme Court.   (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

The Supreme Court on Wednesday seemed ready to strike down a restrictive New York gun permitting law, but the justices also seemed worried that a broad ruling could threaten gun restrictions on subways, bars, stadiums, and other gathering places. The court was hearing arguments in its biggest guns case in more than a decade, the AP reports, a dispute over whether New York's law violates the Second Amendment right to "keep and bear arms." Chief Justice John Roberts and other conservative members of the court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, suggested New York's law goes too far.

Why, Roberts asked, does a person seeking a license to carry a gun in public for self-defense have to show a special need to do so? "The idea that you would need a license to exercise a right is unusual with regard to the Bill of Rights," he said. But Roberts was also among the justices who pressed a lawyer for the law's challengers on where guns might be prohibited. Could a football stadium or a college campus be off-limits, he asked. "What sort of place do you think they could be excluded from? Anyplace where alcohol is served?" Roberts asked.

Paul Clement, arguing on behalf of New York residents who want an unrestricted right to carry concealed weapons in public, replied that while government buildings and schools might be off-limits, bars "might be a tougher case for the government." But answering questions from Justices Elena Kagan and Amy Coney Barrett, Clement suggested that bans on guns in the New York City subway system, Yankee Stadium, and Times Square on New Year's Eve might be all right. The court's liberals seemed willing to allow the state law to remain, focusing on differences between rural areas and cities and suburbs. The law's defenders have said that striking it down will lead to more guns on the streets of cities.

(More US Supreme Court stories.)

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