The court has largely dodged the issue since issuing two landmark opinions in 2008 and 2010, when it held for the first time that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms at home for self- defense.
Gun rights advocates and even some of the justices themselves have expressed frustration that the court has declined to further define the scope of the right as lower courts across the country have upheld restrictions.
Three years ago, for example, Justice Clarence Thomas charged that the “Second Amendment is a disfavored right in this court.”
The new case concerns a New York law governing licenses to carry concealed handguns in public. It requires residents to show they have what the state calls an “actual and articulable” need to do so.
“The law is consistent with the historical scope of the Second Amendment and directly advances New York’s compelling interests in public safety and crime prevention,” New York Attorney General Letitia James wrote in court papers.
No other Constitutional right requires the citizen to declare an affirmative need – subject to review by a government official – in order to exercise it. Imagine if you had to declare a “need” before being allowed to speak, or practice your religion, or assemble, or get a jury trial, or petition your government, or get a lawyer… and if some government official decided that your “need” did not meet his or her ambiguous threshold, you wouldn’t be allowed to do it.
So why would that standard apply to the rights protected in the 2nd Amendment if it wouldn’t to those protected by the 1st?