The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a case involving an overly restrictive New York law concerning gun permits this week. It’s being called the most important Second Amendment case in a decade and would expand the definition of the “right to keep and bear arms.”
The law requires a citizen wanting a concealed carry permit to show “proper cause” before obtaining such a license in locations typically open to the general public, even in rural areas.
Why would any citizen be required to “show cause” to exercise any right in the Constitution? “The idea that you would need a license to exercise a right is unusual with regard to the Bill of Rights,” remarked Chief Justice John Roberts.
Indeed it is. Several other justices echoed Roberts’ concerns, which led court watchers to believe that skepticism would lead to the law being struck down.
“Why isn’t it good enough to say I live in a violent area?” Kavanaugh asked. Barrett suggested the law passed legal muster under the court’s landmark 2008 decision that held that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms.
During their discussion, however, the justices did suggest that restrictions would be okay for sensitive areas such as schools and subways, but that the New York law as written was too broad.
The petitioners in the case — Robert Nash, Brandon Koch, and the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association — argue that they complied with all the requirements for being granted a license except for the “proper cause” standard.
Paul Clement, a George W. Bush-era solicitor general, represented them.
Clement argued that the law makes it almost impossible for an ordinary individual to obtain a license because the “proper cause” standard is so demanding and left to the “broad discretion” of the licensing officer.
“Good, even impeccable, moral character plus a simple desire to exercise a fundamental right is,” Clement said, “not sufficient.” “Nor is living or being employed in a high crime area.”
Nash, for instance, requested to carry a handgun for self-defense after a string of robberies in his neighborhood. But he was denied because he did not demonstrate a special need for self-defense. Koch wanted a similar license, and he was able to cite his experience of participating in safety training courses. He too was denied.
The arbitrary application of the “proper cause” standard will likely doom this version of the law. But gun-control advocates have a nasty habit of coming back for another bite at the same apple. They might change the wording a bit, perhaps broaden the application a little, and present an almost equally restrictive law for passage. Their hope is that the next time their law comes before the Supreme Court, there will be a liberal majority that will allow it.
This is another aspect of “lawfare” that the left has become remarkably good at over the years.