New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc., et al. v. Bruen, Superintendent of New York State Police, et al., 142 S. Ct. 2111 (2022)

The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), held for the first time that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a handgun unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that weapon for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. Two years later, the Supreme Court in McDonald v. City of Chicago, 561 U.S. 742 (2010), confirmed that its reasoning in Heller applies to the States as well as the federal government. In both cases, the Court made clear that States could adopt a variety of reasonable gun safety regulations without violating the Second Amendment.

In June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its first significant Second Amendment decision since Heller and McDonald in a case called New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n, Inc. v. Bruen, 142 S. Ct. 2111 (2022). That case involved a challenge to a New York law that required most people to secure a license to carry a firearm in public by showing “proper cause”—that is, a need to carry for self-defense purposes greater than the needs of a general member of the community. In Bruen, the Supreme Court held that New York’s “proper cause” requirement violated the Constitution because the Second Amendment includes the right to carry firearms in public. The Court made clear that similar requirements in six other States—including California’s “good cause” requirement—were also unconstitutional. But the Court reiterated that States can continue to adopt a variety of reasonable gun control measures, including prohibiting the carrying of firearms in certain “sensitive places,” restricting certain people from possessing or carrying firearms, and restricting access to certain weapons altogether.