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What the Supreme Court gun law ruling means for California

The U.S. Supreme Court Thursday morning struck down a New York law that strictly limits who can legally carry a gun outside the home. The ruling sets precedent that will ripple out to states with similar laws, including California.

The case considered by the Supreme Court challenged the state’s “proper-cause” standard, which requires that residents “demonstrate a special need for self-protection distinguishable from that of the general community.” The New York law, now nullified by the conservative SCOTUS 6-3 majority, has been in place since 1913.

In response to the opinion delivered by Justice Clarence Thomas, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a Twitter post:

“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.

In response to this ruling, we are closely reviewing our options – including calling a special session of the legislature. Just as we swiftly passed nation-leading gun reform legislation, I will continue to do everything in my power to keep New Yorkers safe from gun violence.”

In the scathing dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer says the decision is based on “several serious mistakes” and fails to “consider the serious dangers and consequences of gun violence that lead States to regulate firearms.” Breyer opens his dissent bluntly, saying:

“In 2020, 45,222 Americans were killed by firearms. … Since the start of this year (2022), there have been 277 reported mass shootings—an average of more than one per day. … Gun violence has now surpassed motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of death among children and adolescents.”

Breyer invoked the litany of mass shootings in the U.S., including recent tragedies in Uvalde and Buffalo, and plainly says the SCOTUS ruling “severely burdens States’ efforts” to address and limit gun violence.

California has long employed strict gun laws now open to challenge, including a similar “good cause” standard for firearms permits in public spaces. However, a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in 2014 already opened the door for counties wishing to ease permit standards. Though that decision was reversed two years later by a larger appellate panel, 37 of the state’s 58 counties used the 9th Circuit ruling opportunity to become “shall issue” counties where concealed weapons permits are granted for “self defense” with little proof required.

Jumping off the SCOTUS ruling, California Rifle and Pistol Association President Chuck Michel said Thursday the organization intends to immediately issue legal notices demanding the remaining 21 counties ease their permitting standards.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta said via Twitter Thursday that the state’s Department of Justice is working with Gov. Gavin Newsom and the legislature to “protect Californians in the wake of this SCOTUS decision.” He said:

“This is a sad day for our nation and a setback for public safety. The data is clear — more guns in more places make us less safe.”

As the SCOTUS opinion was being released, the Senate voted 65-34 to bypass a filibuster and move forward with debate on a small but landmark bipartisan gun violence prevention bill.

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