Public Defenders vs. Gun Control

Public Defenders vs. Gun Control

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments this fall in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen , which challenges the constitutionality of a state law requiring that anyone seeking a license to carry a concealed handgun in public first satisfy a local official that he has “proper cause” to do so. Like other big cases about hot-button issues, this one has attracted a lot of amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs. Many of those briefs will have zero influence on the ruling. But one filed in July just might have an impact. The brief comes from a coalition of public defense lawyer organizations, including the Black Attorneys of Legal Aid, the Bronx Defenders, and Brooklyn Defender Services. They urged the Supreme Court to overturn New York’s gun licensing scheme both because it violates the Second Amendment and because it disparately harms black and Hispanic people who carry firearms for self-defense purposes. “Each year,” the groups told the Court, “we represent hundreds of indigent people whom New York criminally charges for exercising their right to keep and bear arms. For our clients, New York’s licensing requirement renders the Second Amendment a legal fiction. Worse, virtually all our clients whom New York prosecutes for exercising their Second Amendment rights are Black and Hispanic.” And that “is no accident,” the brief argued. “New York enacted its firearm licensing requirements to criminalize gun ownership by racial and ethnic minorities. That remains the effect of its enforcement by police […]

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