On June 23, 2022, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of New York Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen. The principal issue before the Court concerned whether New York’s permit-to-carry a firearm requirements violated the Second Amendment.
Justice Thomas wrote for a 6-3 majority in relevant part: The State of New York makes it a crime to possess a firearm without a license, whether inside or outside the home. An individual who wants to carry a firearm outside his home may obtain an unrestricted license to “have and carry” a concealed “pistol or revolver” if he can prove that “proper cause exists” for doing so. N. Y. Penal Law Ann. §400.00(2)(f ). An applicant satisfies the “proper cause” requirement only if he can “demonstrate a special need for self-protection distinguishable from that of the general community.” E.g., In re Klenosky, 75 App. Div. 2d 793, 428 N. Y. S. 2d 256, 257. Petitioners Brandon Koch and Robert Nash are adult, law-abiding New York residents who both applied for unrestricted licenses to carry a handgun in public based on their generalized interest in self-defense. The State denied both of their applications for unrestricted licenses, allegedly because Koch and Nash failed to satisfy the “proper cause” requirement. Petitioners then sued respondents—state officials who oversee the processing of licensing applications—for declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that respondents violated their Second and Fourteenth Amendment rights by denying their unrestricted-license applications for failure to demonstrate a unique need for self-defense. The District Court dismissed petitioners’ complaint and the Court of Appeals affirmed. Both courts relied on the Second Circuit’s prior decision in Kachalsky v. County of Westchester, 701 F. 3d 81, which had sustained New York’s proper-cause standard, holding that the requirement was “substantially related to the achievement of an important governmental interest.” Id., at 96.
This decision will likely lead to many renewed permits-to-carry in New Jersey and other States with gun laws that are similar to New York’s. Applicants with “generalized interests in self-defense” will have a strong substantive law basis for a permit. The response from our state government and many others states will likely be to use a procedure as a weapon. Put another way, they will look for any basis to deny permits-to-carry, knowing that it will take months or years for denied cases to work their way through our appellate courts.