WASHINGTON: The US Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that Americans have a fundamental right to carry a handgun in public, a landmark decision with far-reaching implications for states and cities across the country struggling with a surge in gun violence.

The 6-3 decision strikes down a more than century-old New York law that required a person to prove they had a legitimate self-defence need, or “proper cause,” to receive a permit to carry a handgun outside the home.

Several other states, including California, have similar laws — and the court’s ruling will curb their ability to restrict people from carrying guns in public.

Democratic President Joe Biden denounced the decision, saying it “contradicts both common sense and the Constitution, and should deeply trouble us all.” “We must do more as a society — not less — to protect our fellow Americans,” Biden said. “I call on Americans across the country to make their voices heard on gun safety.” Despite a growing call for limits on firearms after two horrific mass shootings in May, the court sided with advocates who said the US Constitution guarantees the right to own and carry guns.

The ruling is the first by the court in a major Second Amendment case in over a decade, when it ruled in 2008 that Americans have a right to keep a gun at home for self-defense.

It was a stunning victory for the National Rifle Association lobby group, which brought the case along with two New York men who had been denied gun permits.

“Today’s ruling is a watershed win for good men and women all across America and is the result of a decades-long fight the NRA has led,” NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said in a statement.

“The right to self-defense and to defend your family and loved ones should not end at your home.”

New York Governor Kathy Hochul called it a “dark day,” while California’s leader Gavin Newsom termed the decision “shameful.” “It is outrageous that at a moment of national reckoning on gun violence, the Supreme Court has recklessly struck down a New York law that limits those who can carry concealed weapons,” Hochul said.

“This is a dangerous decision from a court hell bent on pushing a radical ideological agenda and infringing on the rights of states to protect our citizens from being gunned down in our streets, schools, and churches,” Newsom tweeted.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the majority opinion and was joined by the other five conservatives on the nine-member court, three of whom were nominated by former Republican president Donald Trump.

Thomas said the New York law prevents “law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms in public for self-defense.” “We conclude that the State’s licensing regime violates the Constitution,” Thomas said.

The ruling comes as the US Senate is considering a rare bipartisan bill that includes modest gun control measures.

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said the ruling “makes it all the more important for Congress to take actionable steps to protect our kids and communities from this nation’s gun violence epidemic.

“In a nation of almost 400 million firearms, this Supreme Court decision is an invitation for more gun deaths and chaos in America’s neighborhoods,” he said.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2022

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