The Supreme Court Should Hold Its Fire on New York’s Gun Law

A recent hearing left the impression that the Supreme Court’s conservative majority is inclined to strike down a gun law that’s been on the books for more than 100 years. That would be a grievous error — and would make cities across the nation more dangerous. The law, passed by New York state at the turn of the last century, says that those who wish to carry a firearm in public must show “proper cause,” or a demonstrated need for personal protection. A lawsuit brought by a state affiliate of the National Rifle Association claims that such a restriction infringes on the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. More than a decade ago, in District of Columbia v. Heller, the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia emphasized that there are legitimate public-safety reasons for governments to adopt firearm regulations, including those that govern the public square. “Like most rights,” he wrote for the court, the Second Amendment “is not unlimited.” Indeed, the historic record of gun regulation, including centuries of common law and English and American jurisprudence, allows for regulating firearms in public spaces. The prospect of armed citizens walking down New York City’s crowded sidewalks, and riding its subways and buses, is a disaster waiting to happen. People will feel less safe — and they will be less safe, not only because criminals will be emboldened to carry guns, but because those who legally possess firearms may pull them out during confrontations that might otherwise be settled with words. […]

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