US Supreme Court Affirms Right to Carry Arms in Public for Self-Defense

Basing its decision on detailed textual and historical analysis of the US Bill of Rights’ Second Amendment, the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that the US Constitution explicitly protects “an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.”

The court says the “normal and ordinary” meaning of the Second Amendment’s operative clause—“the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed”—guarantees the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation whether inside or outside the home.

The justices’ June 23, 2022 decision strikes down a New York state law that required gun owners to demonstrate a particular personal need before they could possibly qualify for a license allowing them to carry firearms in public.

It is now the third ruling, after the cases of Heller and McDonald, in which the high court is directly instructing lower courts that “individual self-defense is ‘the central component’ of the Second Amendment right.”

In his concurring statement, Justice Samuel Alito says, “Today, unfortunately, many Americans have good reason to fear that they will be victimized if they are unable to protect themselves. And today, no less than in 1791, the Second Amendment guarantees their right to do so.”

The Court’s ruling means that, while states may require carry permits, they must issue them to ordinary law-abiding, mentally-sound people. Ordinary people must be able to carry a personal firearm in ordinary places where people congregate. And licensing cannot be excessively delayed or expensive.

For a detailed explanation of the ruling’s legal language, see the video by attorney Andrew Branca on Law of Self Defense. Also read The Scramble on American Handgunner and Supreme Court Upholds Gun Rights Outside of the Home, Let’s Break It Down on Ammoland.

[ Read the SemperVerus article, USA State Constitutions Providing for Armed Self-Defense ]

Quotations from the US Supreme Court’s ruling:

“In District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U. S. 570 (2008), and McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U. S. 742 (2010), we recognized that the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect the right of an ordinary, law-abiding citizen to possess a handgun in the home for self-defense. In this case, petitioners and respondents agree that ordinary, law-abiding citizens have a similar right to carry handguns publicly for their self-defense. We too agree, and now hold, consistent with Heller and McDonald, that the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.”

“A constitutional guarantee subject to future judges’ assessments of its usefulness is no constitutional guarantee at all.”

“The standard for applying the Second Amendment is as follows: When the Second Amendment’s plain text covers an individual’s conduct, the Constitution presumptively protects that conduct. The government must then justify its regulation by demonstrating that it is consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation. Only then may a court conclude that the individual’s conduct falls outside the Second Amendment’s unqualified command.”

“If the last decade of Second Amendment litigation has taught this Court anything, it is that federal courts tasked with making such difficult empirical judgments regarding firearm regulations under the banner of intermediate scrutiny often defer to the determinations of legislatures. But while that judicial deference to legislative interest balancing is understandable—and, elsewhere, appropriate—it is not deference that the Constitution demands here. The Second Amendment is the very product of an interest balancing by the people and it surely elevates above all other interests the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms for self-defense. It is this balance—struck by the traditions of the American people—that demands our unqualified deference.”

[ Read the SemperVerus article, Important Judicial Decisions Regarding Self-Defense Law ]

“Nothing in the Second Amendment’s text draws a home/public distinction with respect to the right to keep and bear arms…. This definition of “bear” naturally encompasses public carry.”

“To confine the right to “bear” arms to the home would nullify half of the Second Amendment’s operative protections. Moreover, confining the right to “bear” arms to the home would make little sense given that self-defense is the central component of the [Second Amendment] right itself. After all, the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation, and confrontation can surely take place outside the home.”

“The constitutional right to bear arms in public for self-defense is not a second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees. We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need. That is not how the First Amendment works when it comes to unpopular speech or the free exercise of religion. It is not how the Sixth Amendment works when it comes to a defendant’s right to confront the witnesses against him. And it is not how the Second Amendment works when it comes to public carry for self-defense. New York’s proper-cause requirement violates the Fourteenth Amendment in that it prevents law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to keep and bear arms. We therefore reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. It is so ordered.”

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