Court Battles

What the Supreme Court decision on concealed carry means for laws across the country

The Supreme Court decision to strike down a centuries old New York state law that limits who can conceal carry weapons has put the spotlight on “may issue” states that have discretionary power over who can be issued a concealed carry permit.

California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey along with New York are may-issue states. In the wake of the Supreme Court decision, the constitutionality of regulations in these states is likely to face renewed legal challenges. 

Stephen Halbrook — a firearms law litigator and author who specializes in constitutional cases — told The Hill that the Supreme Court decision is likely to force them to strike down their existing laws.

“None of these states will have to amend their laws. All they have to do is consider whatever they have equivalent to the New York law to be invalid, and they might as well just cross it out,” he said.

The Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision in the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen case comes amid intense public debate over gun control measures and Second Amendment rights in the wake of two horrific mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas.

The decision raises constitutional questions to the laws similar to New York’s in the other five states that give officials discretionary powers over the issuance of concealed carry permits.

In New York’s case, the state required proof of “proper cause” to carry concealed weapons and for applicants to show officials that they faced “special or unique” danger that necessitated a concealed carry firearm.

Halbrook also said language in the decision stating that “everybody gets an equal chance to get a license” is significant. 

While the Supreme Court’s ruling is final, Halbrook said that states are likely to put in place other restrictions, such as “sensitive places” exceptions that govern where people holding concealed carry permits can have weapons. 

Looking to the future, however, Halbrook said that the decision will be significant in that lower courts will likely look at two factors above all when examining firearms cases: the text of the Second Amendment and the historical understanding of what its authors meant when it was created. 

Jonathan E. Lowy, the chief counsel at the gun control group Brady, told journalists on Wednesday that an end to other state’s may-issue laws could happen “relatively quickly.”

“It basically depends on whether the NRA’s lawyers skip lunch today or not,” Lowy quipped. 

However, Eric Tirschwell, the chief litigation at Everytown for Gun Safety, said that the ruling is unlikely to lead to an “overnight transformation”. 

“It is only this aspect of the licensing regime,” he said. “You’re still going to need to get a license even if this one requirement isn’t applicable….that process remains intact and in place.” 

Tirschwell added that he believes that the Supreme Court’s decision shows it is upholding the Second Amendment in a way “that interprets the right broadly”. 

Unlike may-issue states, “shall issue” states issue concealed carry permits or licenses to anyone who meets all the requirements.

Ester Sanchez Gomez, a senior litigation attorney at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, told reporters that Justice Stephen Breyer’s dissenting opinion in the Supreme Court case highlighted the majority’s creation of a “false sort of black and white distinction” between may-issue and shall-issue states. 

“These [may-issue laws] exist on a spectrum, and the court’s consideration of them as an all or nothing is false to the reality of what the statutes look like,” she added.

Tags California Concealed carry Gun control Hawaii maryland massachusetts New York Supreme Court

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