Bruen Dissent and Gun Control (Part 15)

by | Nov 7, 2022 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

Supreme Court - Gun RightsThe dissent continued: For instance, the Court recognizes in a footnote that three States (Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island) have statutes with discretionary criteria, like so-called “may issue” regimes do. Ante, at 5, n. 1. But the Court nonetheless counts them among the 43 “shall issue” jurisdictions because, it says, these three States’ laws operate in practice more like “shall issue” regimes. Ibid.; see also Brief for American Bar Association as Amicus Curiae 10 (recognizing, conversely, that some “shall issue” States, e.g., Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Oregon, and Virginia, still grant some degree of discretion to licensing authorities). As these three States demonstrate, the line between “may issue” and “shall issue” regimes is not as clear cut as the Court suggests, and that line depends at least in part on how statutory discretion is applied in practice.

Here, because the Court strikes down New York’s law without affording the State an opportunity to develop an evidentiary record, we do not know how much discretion licensing officers in New York have in practice or how that discretion is exercised, let alone how the licensing regimes in the other six “may issue” jurisdictions operate. Even accepting the Court’s line between “may issue” and “shall issue” regimes and assuming that its tally (7 “may issue” and 43 “shall issue” jurisdictions) is correct, that count does not support the Court’s implicit suggestion that the seven “may issue” jurisdictions are somehow outliers or anomalies.

The Court’s count captures only a snapshot in time. It forgets that “shall issue” licensing regimes are a relatively recent development. Until the 1980s, “may issue” regimes predominated. See id., at 9; R. Grossman & S. Lee, May Issue Versus Shall Issue: Explaining the Pattern of Concealed-Carry Handgun Laws, 1960–2001, 26 Contemp. Econ. Pol’y 198, 200 (2008) (Grossman). As of 1987, 16 States and the District of Columbia prohibited concealed carriage outright, 26 States had “may issue” licensing regimes, 7 States had “shall issue” regimes, and 1 State (Vermont) allowed concealed carriage without a permit. Congressional Research Service, Gun Control: Concealed Carry Legislation in the 115th Congress 1 (Jan. 30, 2018).

The fact that Vermont has a long history of permitting concealed carriage without a permit provides hope that the majority decision will not lead to an uptick in gun violence. While it is a rural state, it still has a long history of expansive gun rights, millions of people, and no related history of elevated gun violence.