Although it is difficult to accurately predict how the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on a case simply by following oral arguments, justices sometimes offer hints about their thoughts on a particular matter.
This week, several justices appeared to do just that, according to the Daily Mail, expressing concerns about a New York state law requiring residents to provide “proper cause” to obtain a permit to carry a concealed firearm.
“Hard-working, law-abiding people”
Justice Samuel Alito’s remark came on Wednesday in response to New York Solicitor Barbara Underwood’s claim that people would be “terrified” if anyone could carry a gun on the subway. The conservative justice pointed out that many individuals already carry guns illegally despite a law against it.
“But the ordinary hard-working, law-abiding people…can’t be armed?” he asked, as the Daily Mail reported.
Justices John Roberts, Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett, and Brett Kavanaugh joined Alito in criticizing the state law.
“Why isn’t it good enough to say I live in a violent area and I want to defend myself?” Kavanaugh wondered.
For his part, Roberts took issue with the requirement of a specific threat to carry a gun in rural areas, noting that they are also public places.
“The core right to self defense”
Furthermore, critics of the law have taken exception to the provision that “celebrities, state judges and retired police officers” are uniquely eligible for such permits. As crime in New York City and elsewhere across the state trends upward, proponents of broader Second Amendment rights argue that it only makes sense that ordinary citizens would feel a need to protect themselves.
“They do not get licenses, is that right?” Alito asked in reference to such average New Yorkers. “How is that consistent with the core right to self defense?”
Of course, supporters of the law insist that nullifying its restrictions would leave the door open for firearms to be allowed in places such as government buildings, public transit, stadiums, schools, and other locations where they are currently prohibited. Barrett attempted to address those concerns by asserting that similar restrictions have always been in place and would not likely be changed if the law is reversed.
Other states with similar laws — including California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island — could be impacted, however, if the Supreme Court decides to strike down the New York law.
National Rifle Association (NRA) Institute of Legislative Action executive director Jason Ouimet expressed optimism in light of the remarks by conservative justices, stating:
The NRA is grateful that the Supreme Court is tackling this critical issue. We are proud to be a part of this case, and we look forward to a future in which law-abiding Americans everywhere have the fundamental right to self defense the way the Constitution intended.