Since Heller and McDonald are the law, holding the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms as a fundamental personal right applicable to the states, the only remaining question was whether a state like New York, or more to the point, a City like New York, could just say “nah,” as it always did with a warm hug from the Second Circuit and have the Supreme Court look away and pretend it saw nothing.
That looked pretty much to be the net outcomes until NY State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n v. Bruen, where, painful as it is to say, Justice Clarence Thomas’ rationale is entirely sound.
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.
The logic is sound, even if the analogies fail to recognize the singular distinction between arms and speech or religion, where a negligent or malevolent error can cause another person’s death. It’s a big deal for the person killed and those who cared.
My “support” for the Second Amendment has nothing to do with any love of guns, but for an appreciation of constitutional rights, even those that might not fit comfortably with my personal interests. And as someone who has spent the bulk of his adult life walking around New York City, the particular locus of the Bruen case, I am not at all comfortable knowing that otherwise law-abiding folks are walking about packing heat.
People in New York City tend to be grouchy, overly sensitive, quick to anger and quick to act upon their anger. People in New York City tend to be
a bit weird, ranging from the Woody Allen paranoia type to the full blown psychosis that is never really picked up because the nutjob doesn’t seem sufficiently different than the rest of the crazies walking the streets. It’s not that I fear guns, per se, but I fear guns in the hands of New Yorkers.
If you’ve never lived in a place where there are as many people squished together per square inch as the City, you might not understand. Going to get a cold soda on the corner can be life threatening experience, should someone walking out not be looking and bump into someone walking in. Angers will flare. Blood will boil. Then what? Sensible people elsewhere will point out that this is the wrong scenario to pull out a weapon, that there is no cause for it and this is totally wrong and irresponsible. Yeah? So? Did I not mention this was New York?
To get a carry permit in New York, you had to apply to the NYPD and prove you had a special need. Ex-cops had a special need built in, because that’s what the people at Police Legal had long ago decided. But you? Me? Not likely. There were businesses built on getting people in NYC a carry permit. My old pal Jeff, who went from law school to the permit desk at Police Legal, went into the biz after making his pension. And even these businesses were only successful in creating the appearance of a special need for their customers about half the time.
And then there are the illegal guns, carried by some for self-defense because of where they live and what they do making their continued existence tenuous, and carried by others to enforce their will and, on occasion, rob someone. It happens. Why should the self-defense folks suffer for lack of an official seal of approval from 1 Police Plaza? If anything, these are some of the most trustworthy folks, as they’ve already proven they have the self-restraint not to brandish a gun on a whim. This is why a bunch of legal aid lawyers joined as amici for Bruen.
But do other New Yorkers have the self-restraint, the impulse control, to be trusted with a weapon? Do they have the good judgment to decide when it would be appropriate, not to mention lawful, to use and when it wouldn’t? Would they have the aim so as not to kill eight bystanders while missing their target, as New York’s Finest are wont to do? They say an armed populace is a polite populace. Fuggehaboutit. There have been enough guns on the streets of New York that, if this was to happen, there would be some indication of politeness. Anybody see it?
The problem isn’t that the Bruen decision, in light of the holding in Heller and McDonald, wasn’t the sound decision, even if it was simultaneously was the decision that gun control advocates feared most. And notably, there are only six states affected by the decision, as the rest already have “shall issue” or some similar variation rather than “may issue” as was the case in New York City.
And if that’s what the Second Amendment provides, because that’s what the Supreme Court holds, then so be it. But just because you have a right to bear arms doesn’t mean you should, my fellow New Yorkers. Remember, pull it out at the wrong time, use it at the wrong time, and you may well spend many nights pondering the error of your ways in a cell. If you lack the judgment or temperament to carry a firearm, don’t do it. And if you’re in New York City, chances are high that a firearm will only get you in trouble and someone else (or possibly you) dead. You really don’t want that. Even if you have the right to carry, you don’t have to.