Supreme Court strikes down a New York gun restriction law amid national debate on firearms

The U.S. Supreme Court today struck down a New York handgun law, expanding the constitutional right to carry a gun outside the home. The ruling has far-reaching implications across the country, and comes as recent mass shootings have renewed the debate over gun safety measures. John Yang reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The U.S. Supreme Court today struck down a New York law that placed restrictions on who can carry a gun. In so doing, the court expanded the constitutional right to carry a gun outside the home. The ruling has far-reaching implications across the country.

    And, as John Yang reports, it comes as recent mass shootings have renewed the debate over gun safety measures.

  • John Yang:

    Criticism of the ruling came quickly from President Biden.

  • President Joe Biden:

    I think it is a bad decision. I think it is not reasoned accurately. But I am disappointed.

  • John Yang:

    From New York Governor Kathy Hochul.

  • Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY):

    This decision isn't just reckless. It's reprehensible. It's not what New Yorkers want.

  • John Yang:

    But gun rights activists like Tom King, the head of the New York state gun owners group that challenged the law, praised the decision.

    Tom King, President, New York, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association: We are not the problem. The problem is the criminals and the wrongdoers in the state. And the politicians have to learn that and they have to get off their butt to do something to solve the crime problem in New York state, not the gun problem, because there wouldn't be a gun problem if it wasn't for the crime.

  • John Yang:

    The justices split along ideological lines, the six conservatives in the majority, the three liberals dissenting.

    The decision turned on the New York law's requirement that gun owners demonstrate a special need to get a permit to carry the weapon in public. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the majority opinion: "We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need."

    The court said states could still ban guns in places like schools and government buildings and restrict carrying a handgun based on objective standards like background checks and training.

    In addition, the court established a new test for determining whether gun legislation is constitutional.

    Marcia Coyle is chief Washington correspondent for "The National Law Journal."

    Marcia Coyle, "The National Law Journal": The court now says, going forward, what's most important is history, history under the Constitution surrounding the Second Amendment. Government will have to show that the regulation that they want to enact or have enacted is consistent with the historical tradition of the nation's regulation of firearms.

  • John Yang:

    Dissenting, Justice Stephen Breyer, who's retiring this summer, noted the nearly 300 mass shootings reported so far this year.

    "When courts interpret the Second Amendment, it is constitutionally proper, indeed, often necessary, for them to consider the serious dangers and consequences of gun violence that lead states to regulate firearms."

  • Marcia Coyle:

    Justice Breyer's concern here with that test is that history doesn't always answer or provide an answer to the modern problems that governments face and that technology presents.

  • John Yang:

    The ruling takes on greater significance as massacres in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo and heightened worries about big city gun violence, have renewed calls for stricter gun laws.

    Even as the court issued its decision, the Senate worked on bipartisan gun legislation. Senator Republican Leader McConnell of Kentucky:

  • Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY):

    The American people want their constitutional rights protected and their kids to be safe in school. They want both of those things at once. And that is just what the bill before the Senate will help accomplish.

  • John Yang:

    As lawmakers on Capitol Hill and across the country search for ways to address gun violence, the Supreme Court has taken one option off the table.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm John Yang.

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