During oral arguments in NYS Rifle & Pistol , there were extended discussions of New York’s diverse geography. There are the rural areas of upstate New York, the urban jungle of New York City ( never say “downstate”), and “intermediate areas” like Rensselaer County. These varied communities raise the question of whether the scope of Second Amendment rights can vary from place-to-place. For example, Justice Thomas asked NY SG Underwood how population density affects the scope of the right to bear arms: JUSTICE THOMAS: General Underwood, you seem to rely a bit on the density of the population. You say, I think, that states like New York have high-density areas. And implicit in that is that the more rural an area is, the more unnecessary a strict rule is. So, when you are –when you suggest that, how rural does the area have to be before your restrictions shouldn’t apply? Later, Justice Kagan returned to Justice Thomas’s question. (We are all better off that the revised format has enabled Justice Thomas to share his wisdom). Kagan explained that it would be intuitive for rights to vary in Wyoming and New York City. But that argument does not “match with our notion of constitutional rights generally.” Rights should not vary by place. JUSTICE KAGAN: I mean, if you think about Justice Thomas’s questions about less populated areas, the rural areas of New York versus the cities, I mean, it seems completely intuitive that there should be different gun regimes in […]
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