An unwise decision, a new gun safety challenge

An unwise decision, a new gun safety challenge

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The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down New York State’s restrictions on carrying guns in public is a serious mistake. It will jeopardize public safety, make Americans more vulnerable to the scourge of gun violence, and cause needless death and suffering. Elected officials must take immediate action to protect citizens from the consequences of court recklessness.

By a 6-3 majority, the court struck down a century-old New York state law that requires people to show “adequate cause” for the need for personal protection to carry a concealed firearm. By siding with the plaintiffs in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, Justice Clarence Thomas said the law violates the Constitution by preventing law-abiding citizens from exercising their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms in public for self-defense. Thomas wrote that while the Constitution allows guns to be prohibited in certain sensitive places, such as courthouses, schools, and government buildings, “expanding the category of ‘sensitive places’ simply to all places of public gathering…defines the category of ‘sensitive places’ too broadly.” In essence, Thomas stated that New York’s current system amounts to prohibiting concealed carry and is therefore unconstitutional.

As a result of the ruling, New York, California and several other states with similar laws will be severely hampered in preventing citizens from carrying guns in public. Taken to the extreme, this decision has the potential to flood major cities with guns and increase both the frequency and lethality of mass shootings. Passengers on the New York City subway, for example, might not only have to deal with the possibility of a crazy shooter, but also find themselves caught in the crossfire of multiple armed individuals. At a minimum, the court’s decision will create further confusion for law enforcement officials and the public.

Still, the court did not completely throw out the gun safety regulations. In a concurring opinion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts cited earlier decisions in which the court said the Second Amendment is not “unlimited” and noted that states can still set rules about who can receive legally gun licenses.

The burden now falls on Congress, as well as state and local officials, to put those standards to the test. The concealed carry ruling comes just as a bipartisan group of US senators has produced landmark legislation, the first in nearly three decades, designed to address the escalation of mass shootings. The bill falls short of the reforms necessary to ensure the comprehensive security of Americans, but it nonetheless represents a much-needed step in the direction of gun sanity, primarily by strengthening the ability of authorities to keep guns out of reach of dangerous people. In the wake of the court’s decision, it is even more urgent that Congress pass the bill without delay.

With a single ill-considered decision, the Supreme Court has encouraged the gun industry and made public spaces less safe. The work of undoing the damage must begin now.

More of the opinion of Bloomberg

The Supreme Court just improved the streets of New York: Noah Feldman

An Executive Order That Could Actually Stop Gun Violence: Timothy L. O’Brien

Getting Started on Solving America’s Gun Culture Problem: Sarah Green Carmichael and Francis Wilkinson

The editors are members of the editorial board of Bloomberg Opinion.

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