Self Defense is Your Right

The constitutional right to bear arms in public for self-defense is not “a second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Right guarantees.”  McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 742, 780 (2010) (plurality opinion).  The exercise of other constitutional rights does not require individuals to demonstrate to government officers some special need.  The Second Amendment right to carry arms in public for self-defense is no different.  New York’s proper-cause requirement violates the Fourteenth Amendment by preventing law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to keep and bear arms.

There are 43 States where the government issues licenses to carry based on objective criteria.  In New York, on the other hand, the government requires a further condition of showing a special need to obtain a license to carry.  New York requires applicants to show a “proper cause” for receiving a license to carry, which is a subjective standard left to the bureaucratic decision-making.

Under New York law, an individual who wants to carry a firearm outside his home may obtain an unrestricted license carry a handgun in public if he can prove that “proper cause exists” for doing so.  In order to meet the “proper cause” requirement, the applicant must “demonstrate a special need for self-protection distinguishable from that of the general community.”

Two residents in New York applied for unrestricted licenses to carry a handgun in public based on their generalized interest in self-defense.  The State of New York denied their applications because a generalized interest in self-defense did not satisfy the “proper cause” requirement.

The general process for applying for a license to carry in New York is that a bureaucrat in New York determines whether there is “proper cause” for an applicant to receive a license to carry a handgun outside of the home.  And, essentially, the New York state courts rubber stamp the bureaucrat’s decision.  New York courts defer to the bureaucratic decision-making so long as there is a rational basis for the decision, or that it was not arbitrary and capricious.

There are no New York statutes to define “proper cause.”  New York courts had taken it upon themselves to define “proper cause” as “demonstrat[ing] a special need for self-protection distinguishable from that of the general community.”  E.g., In re Klenosky, 75 App. Div. 2d 793, 428 N. Y. S. 2d 256, 257 (1980).  New York, generally, required evidence “of particular threats, attacks or other extraordinary danger to personal safety” to satisfy the “proper cause” requirement.  In re Martinek, 294 App. Div. 2d 221, 222, 743 N. Y. S. 2d 80, 81 (2002).

The Court ruled that the “proper cause” requirement violates the Fourteenth Amendment by preventing law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms in public for self-defense.

This case is a natural extension of prior Supreme Court precedent.  In District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 742 (2010), the Court recognized that the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect the right of an ordinary, law-abiding citizen to possess a handgun in the home for self-defense.  Here, the Court extended the ruling outside of the home, ruling that “ordinary, law-abiding citizens have a similar right to carry handguns publicly for their self-defense.”

The Court focused on self-defense as a cornerstone to the Second Amendment and that the government bears the burden of proving their firearm regulation squares with history.  The baseline is that citizens have a Second Amendment Right to self-defense, which includes owning and carrying a firearm inside and outside of the home.  Where the government choses to regulate a citizen’s right to self-defense by requiring the citizen to show a special need to own and carry a firearm, then the government must prove that such a regulation is consistent with historical tradition of firearm regulation. And “[o]nly if a firearm regulation is consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition may a court conclude that the individual’s conduct falls outside the Second Amendment’s unqualified command.”  Konigsberg v. State Bar of Cal., 366 U.S. 36, 50, n. 10 (1961) (quotation marks omitted).

One Response to Self Defense is Your Right

  1. […] Self Defense is Your RightThe constitutional right to bear arms in public for self-defense is not “a second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Right guarantees.” McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 742, 780 (2010) (plurality opinion). MORE >> […]

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