April 26, 2021
For the first time in more than a decade, the Supreme Court is poised to issue a major decision regarding the scope of the right to keep and bear arms protected by the Second Amendment. Earlier today, the Supreme Court granted a petition for a writ of certiorari in the case of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Keith M. Corlett, in His Official Capacity as Superintendent of New York State Police (“NYSRPA v. Corlett”).
Plaintiffs had filed a lawsuit alleging that the manner in which the State of New York issues licenses to carry concealed handguns violates the right to keep and bear arms. In New York, the open carry of handguns is prohibited, and a license is required to own a handgun or to carry one concealed. New York is one of the few remaining states that is very restrictive when it comes to issuing licenses to carry concealed handguns. New York limits licenses to carry concealed handguns to those who show “proper cause” for the issuance of such a license. The term “proper cause” is not defined in the law. The judges and police departments that issue licenses generally require that applicants establish that they face a danger different from other persons in the same occupation that justifies the need to carry a handgun for self-defense. This often requires proof of specific threats to the applicant documented by police reports, as opposed to living or working in a dangerous neighborhood, or working in a remote area, or at night. The effect of New York’s policy is that the rich and famous are able to obtained licenses to carry concealed handguns, while the majority of law abiding citizens are unable to obtain such a license. When New York does issue a license to carry a concealed handgun to an ordinary citizen, it is often restricted to use in connection with target shooting or hunting. This means that the license holder can only possess a handgun outside of his home or place of business while engaged in target shooting or hunting and traveling directly to and from such activities, and cannot carry a concealed handgun for purposes of self-defense.
Plaintiffs had filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York in 2018, arguing that New York’s restrictive policy for issuing licenses to carry concealed handguns violated the Second Amendment. The district court (trial court) granted summary judgment dismissing plaintiffs’ complaint, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed. The lower courts held that plaintiffs’ claim was foreclosed by an earlier decision by the Second Circuit in the case of Kachalsky v. Cty. of Westchester, that had held that New York’s restrictive policy in issuing licenses to carry concealed handguns does not violate the Second Amendment.
In accepting certiorari, the Supreme Court will likely address the issue of whether the Second Amendment applies to the right to keep and bear firearms for purposes of self-defense outside of the home. It may also address the proper standard of review to be applied when deciding whether a statute violates the Second Amendment, an issue that it had left unresolved in earlier cases. The case will be heard during the Supreme Court’s next term, which begins in October and a decision is expected to be issued by June of 2022. Based on the justices currently on the Supreme Court, it is likely that the Second Circuit’s decision will be reversed. If the Supreme Court recognizes a right to keep and bear arms for purposes of self-defense outside of the home, similarly restrictive laws in states such as California, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island could potentially be declared unconstitutional.
Renzulli Law Firm will continue to monitor the NYSRPA v. Corlett case. If you have any questions about the NYSRPA v. Corlett case, the Second Amendment, or licenses to carry concealed handguns in New York, please contact John F. Renzulli or Christopher Renzulli.