New York gun case: Breyer says conservative Supreme Court majority 'severely burdens' state firearm rules

Posted 48 days ago


Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer said in a dissenting opinion Thursday that the conservative majority "severely burdens" state laws aimed at curbing violence, as the court struck down New York concealed firearm carry restrictions.

"Many States have tried to address some of the dangers of gun violence just described by passing laws that limit, in various ways, who may purchase, carry, or use firearms of different kinds," Breyer wrote. "The Court today severely burdens States’ efforts to do so."

Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined Breyer in his dissent in the 6-3 case. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsich, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas made up the majority.

Thomas delivered the court's majority opinion, arguing that "the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home." The New York law required an applicant to show "proper cause" for seeking a license, but the majority struck that down.

"Because the State of New York issues public-carry licenses only when an applicant demonstrates a special need for self-defense, we conclude that the State’s licensing regime violates the Constitution," Thomas wrote.

However, Breyer said the U. S. deals with a massive amount of gun crimes, and that it is the domain of state legislatures to address that even if there are many lawful uses for firearms.

"The question before us concerns the extent to which the Second Amendment prevents democratically elected officials from enacting laws to address the serious problem of gun violence," he said. "And yet the Court today purports to answer that question without discussing the nature or severity of that problem."

"Balancing… lawful uses against the dangers of firearms is primarily the responsibility of elected bodies, such as legislatures," Breyer added. "It requires consideration of facts, statistics, expert opinions, predictive judgments, relevant values, and a host of other circumstances, which together make decisions about how, when, and where to regulate guns more appropriately legislative work."

Breyer, in his opinion, also criticizes a history-based approach taken by the majority, and argues that "legal restrictions on the public carriage of fire... (Read more)