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Clarence Thomas Just Declared Most Gun Control Laws Presumptively Unconstitutional

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23.06.2022
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The Supreme Court commenced a revolution in Second Amendment law on Thursday, striking down New York’s strict limits on concealed carry in a maximalist opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas that renders most of the nation’s gun control laws presumptively unconstitutional. The decision will unleash a tidal wave of lower court rulings invalidating laws designed to protect Americans from the carnage of gun violence. And it will stymie current efforts to reduce that violence through innovative new solutions to this epidemic. For gun control advocates, it is the worst-case scenario.

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Thursday’s decision, New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, involves a challenge to New York’s restrictions on the carrying of concealed firearms in public. Like seven other states, New York bars residents from obtaining a concealed carry permit without some elevated need for self-defense. Thomas, joined by the other five conservative justices, invalidated that law as a violation of the Second Amendment. In doing so, he dramatically expanded the scope of the court’s previous gun decisions, which limited the right of self-defense to the home.

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Before Thursday, 83 million people—or about one in four Americans—lived in a state with stringent limits on concealed carry. After Bruen, zero do.

But Thomas did not stop there. In striking down New York’s restriction, the justice also established a new standard for evaluating gun control measures. First, he asked whether a law interferes with rights protected in “the plain text” of the Second Amendment—specifically, the right to self-defense (which is not actually in the amendment’s text). If so, Thomas explained, that law is presumptively unconstitutional. The government may only save it from invalidation if it can prove that the regulation “is consistent with this nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”

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In other words, courts may no longer rely........

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