NEW YORK - The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal in a New York case over the right to carry a firearm in public for self-defense.
This would be the court's first case on gun rights since Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the bench in October, making a 6-3 conservative majority. The justices will review a lower-court ruling that upheld New York's restrictive gun permit law. Their decision has the potential to significantly expand gun rights in the United States.
In June, before Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, the court had turned down a review of the same issue.
Paul Clement, who represents the challengers to New York's restrictive permit law, said the justices should use this case to firmly settle the question.
"Thus, the nation is split, with the Second Amendment alive and well in the vast middle of the nation, and those same rights disregarded near the coasts," Clement wrote on behalf of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, or NYSRPA, and two residents.
NYSRPA executive director Tom King said he objects to the state's gun law, which requires anyone seeking a license to carry a concealed weapon to demonstrate "a special need for self-protection." King said that violates his Second Amendment rights.
"We're looking for the ability to carry a concealed firearm to protect ourselves outside of our home," King said. "There are 42 or 43 other states in the nation that allow concealed carry of a firearm, and there's not blood running in the streets."
But Dan Feldman, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, challenged that assertion.
"In high-density areas, shootouts are particularly dangerous. The idea that some citizen has a concealed carry and then is going to protect himself or herself in a fraught situation?" Feldman, a former member of the state Assembly, told FOX 5 NY. "What is overwhelmingly likely to happen is that a lot of innocent bystanders are going to get shot."
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In a statement, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the firearms law New York passed in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut has made people safer — and this case "is a massive threat to that security."
"Imagine someone carrying a gun through Times Square, onto the subway, or to a tailgate outside of a Bills game — the [National Rifle Association's] goal here is to shift the onus onto regular New Yorkers, police officers, security guards, and first responders to determine whether an armed individual poses a threat or is simply carrying for self-defense," Cuomo said in the statement. "The streets of New York are not the O.K. Corral, and the NRA's dream of a society where everyone is terrified of each other and armed to the teeth is abhorrent to our values."
New York Attorney General Letitia James echoed the governor's sentiment.
"We will vigorously defend any challenge to New York state's gun laws that are intended to protect public safety," James said.
New York is among eight states that limit who has the right to carry a weapon in public. The others are California, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.
The court's action follows mass shootings in recent weeks in Georgia, Colorado, and California. In the wake of those massacres, President Joe Biden and Congress are poised to debate stricter gun control measures. The president said America is amid "an epidemic of gun violence."
The website of the NYSRPA, which is affiliated with the NRA, states the group has been "dedicated to the preservation of Second Amendment rights, firearm safety, education and training, and the shooting sports" since 1871.
With The Associated Press and FOX 5 NY's Sharon Crowley.