Last week, several American cities submitted an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief in support of New York’s restrictive public carry laws. New York’s law is the subject of pending litigation before the Supreme Court in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, which has the potential to be a blockbuster Second Amendment case.
New York’s carry law effectively bans all public carriage of firearms, limiting the right to a privileged few for whom state agents grant discretionary permits. A system that—shocking to exactly no one—is rife with abuse and corruption.
Previously, opponents of the illusory permitting system—including Mountain States Legal Foundation’s Center to Keep and Bear Arms— filed briefs arguing that New York’s restrictive law is unconstitutional.
That hasn’t stopped a number of cities from supporting New York’s effective ban on self-defense. Those 12 cities (so far) include Chicago; Baltimore; Cincinnati; Columbus, Ohio; Dayton, Ohio; San Diego; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Philadelphia; Portland, Oregon; Seattle; and St. Paul, Minnesota.
In perpetuating the false idea that firearms rather than the individuals wielding them are responsible for crime and violence, the cities in support of New York now argue that the “COVID-19 pandemic and protests over police brutality led to a surge of firearm sales and gun violence in 2020.”
And as a result, they claim: “Any reduction in the ability of [the cities] to enact and enforce stringent firearms regulation sets us back, not forward, in our quest to resolve America’s handgun violence crisis.”
Somehow, with a straight face, these cities contend that preventing people from carrying guns for self-defense “will promote public safety.” The cities also try to argue that the 2008 and 2010 decisions in favor of the Second Amendment were severely limited and only covered protections to self-defense within the home.
But in reality, the cities set up a false dichotomy. Essentially, they argue that if the court doesn’t uphold “New York’s Discretionary Licensing Regime,” the cities will be completely unable to ensure citizens’ safety.
First, this is demonstrably false. One could simply look to the 20 states that have no carry licensing system at all—including Texas most recently—to see that peaceable individuals carrying firearms in public are not a public safety threat. There are reams of data out there to prove this point.
More importantly, New York’s “discretionary licensing regime” that these cities support is an effective prohibition on public carry. These cities are not truly advocating for a fair and just licensing system that is accessible by most Americans. Instead, they are throwing their support behind a law that reserves to a privileged few the constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms.
The cities want to parcel out your rights at their discretion—but that isn’t how rights work. Your rights are not a privilege granted only at the discretion of a government bureaucrat. Your right to self-defense cannot be subject to their whims or their discretionary policy decisions at any given moment.
Americans have the natural and unalienable right to keep and bear arms for our defense. It is long past time that every city recognizes that.