Supreme Court decision creates confusion over which firearm restrictions are constitutional
Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a New York law restricting the concealed carry of handguns in public spaces, there has been a growing lack of clarity about gun restrictions, experts told ABC News.
“To [New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen] The decision really opens up a whole new way to analyze the legality of firearms regulation, and so there’s really no trial to go through, so it’s basically a free-for-all,” Michael Siegel, a faculty member at the School of Tufts Medicine who studies gun violence, said in an interview with ABC News.
Illinois Governor JB Pritzker looks at supporters in Chicago on Nov. 8, 2022, after winning re-election.
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Siegel said the Bruen decision created a new system for how the constitutionality of firearms laws should be judged, where “nothing is really clear” and it’s a trial-and-error situation.
Bruen’s decision was “monumental” for gun rights and gave them many key victories in recent months, Alan Gottlieb, executive director of the Second Amendment Foundation, told ABC News in an interview.
“We’ve struck down some laws in California, we’ve gotten restraining orders against some of the ones in New York, we just got the temporary restraining order against the one in New Jersey,” Gottlieb said.
There are currently about 50 cases in federal court challenging gun control laws across the country, Gottlieb said.
Gottlieb criticized lawmakers for passing what he said are more restrictive laws that are not drawn narrowly enough, despite the Bruen decision.
“Bruen opened the door to extreme decisions, but it didn’t close the door to reasonable gun regulation,” Janet Carter, who heads Everytown’s national Second Amendment practice, said in an interview with ABC News.
A federal judge in Oregon allowed a voter-approved ballot measure to stand in place limiting large-capacity magazines, recognizing that they are not necessary for the function of a gun or for self-defense, Carter cites.
Matt Collins removes high-capacity rifle magazines from display at Freddie Bear Sports on Jan. 11, 2023, in Tinley Park, Illinois.
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Illinois became the latest state to ban assault weapons along with high-capacity magazines and rapid-fire devices.
The ban came six months after a gunman used a semi-automatic rifle to shoot and kill seven people at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park.
While the ban was signed into law by the state’s governor, Siegel warned it could face challenges in court.
Siegel also criticized the assault weapons ban, saying it targets the cosmetic features of guns but doesn’t make the guns themselves safer. Research also suggests that assault weapons bans have no effect on reducing gun violence, Siegel said.
However, research shows that states that have bans on large-capacity ammunition magazines actually experience fewer deaths when a mass shooting occurs, according to Siegel.
It is still unclear what the courts will decide when it comes to limiting where guns can be carried. While there is a long history of restricting where guns can be, the Supreme Court has ruled that there is a right to keep guns for self-defense outside of one’s home.
While there are certain places that can be protected by guns, the concern is that if the list of places gets too long, it could be interpreted as limiting the public’s Second Amendment rights, according to Siegel.
Assault-style rifles now banned for sale in the state are displayed at Freddie Bear Sports on Jan. 11, 2023, in Tinley Park, Illinois.
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New York enacted gun restrictions in response to Bruen’s ruling, making concealed carry illegal in “sensitive locations” and banning guns from areas including mass transit and Times Square.
A federal judge blocked parts of the new gun law governing licensing. The law replaced the unconstitutional “good cause” standard with a requirement to demonstrate “good moral character.”
The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed the law to remain in effect, for now.
Gottlieb criticized the law, saying jewelry store owners in Times Square received notices that they could not carry guns on the premises because it was now a sensitive location.
Reducing gun violence
To limit gun violence, research published last year suggests that lawmakers should focus on who has access to guns, rather than the guns themselves. Research suggests there is bipartisan support for keeping guns away from dangerous people or those with criminal histories, Siegel said.
There are only four states that have bans that prohibit anyone with a history of violence from owning and buying a gun.
Siegel was the lead researcher on a study that recommended several policies widely supported by gun owners and non-gun owners, including lowering the threshold for crimes that could disqualify someone from being able to legally purchase or possess a gun. They include violent misdemeanor crimes such as assault, along with battery and stalking, which are currently excluded. Additional recommended policies include enforcing red flag laws, streamlining universal background checks, and enforcing gun permit laws at the state level.