The Supreme Court just made it easier to conceal-carry a gun.

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The Supreme Court just made it a whole lot easier to conceal-carry a gun.

In a major constitutional win for gun rights activists, the Supreme Court on Thursday released its opinion on New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen — a Second Amendment case that challenged a New York state law requiring handgun owners to get a permit to conceal-carry their firearms in public.

Gun control advocates decried the decision. “Today’s ruling from the Supreme Court is wrong by the law, wrong by history and wrong by the country,” Jonathan Lowy, chief counsel and vice president of legal for the Brady Campaign, said on a press call. “This decision is radical judicial extremism at worst, and Americans will die as a result.”

But gun rights groups have welcomed the decision as a constitutional win for firearms owners. “This decision unequivocally validates the position of the National Rifle Association and should put lawmakers on notice: No law should be passed that impinges this individual freedom,” Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the NRA, said in a statement.

On the same day, Gallup released polling conducted after the mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York, finding that most Americans want tighter gun control measures.

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“We’ve generally found that after high-profile shootings like that, support for stricter gun laws increases,” at least temporarily, Jeff Jones, a Gallup senior editor, told Grid. “That’s what we’ve seen over the last decade or so, maybe even all the way back to Columbine.”

So what does the Bruen decision mean for an American public that’s becoming increasingly supportive of stricter gun laws?

It doesn’t mean New York gun owners can start walking around with a handgun without a permit

Licensing isn’t completely gone, said Eric Ruben, a constitutional law expert at the Brennan Center for Justice.

“[The decision] says that it’s unconstitutional to require somebody to get a license before they can carry a handgun in public,” he explained. “They just struck down the ‘good cause’ requirement that’s in place in New York and other states.”

Good cause, or a “proper cause” in this case, means a substantial reason why the applicant needs to carry a handgun in public. If they need the gun for self-defense purposes, the applicant used to be required to demonstrate why before a New York licensing official. Not anymore. But there are other conditions in place.

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“You can still have certain requirements to get your license,” like requiring that applicants complete firearms training before getting their license. It’s just that now they no longer need to show a “heightened need for self-defense,” Ruben explained.

A public majority that wants to see more gun control legislation

Support for stricter gun control laws reached a record high in June, up 14 percentage points from a seven-year low last October.

Gallup started tracking Americans’ attitudes toward gun policy when violent crime was so high that Congress passed the now-infamous 1994 crime omnibus bill.

“That’s when crime was a major concern for people,” Jones explained. “And that led up to the passage of the crime bill in 1994, which included the assault weapons ban.”

In the ’90s, 78 percent of Americans supported stricter gun laws. Today, we’re inching back closer toward that all-time high. Currently, 66 percent of Americans polled said they want laws covering firearm sales to be stricter, while 55 percent said they not only want to enforce existing gun laws but also want to pass new gun legislation.

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What happens next?

State legislators who want tighter restrictions over concealed-carry requirements will have to work around the ruling. “I think that they’re going to take a close look at what requirements are necessary to get a permit,” Ruben told Grid. He said he expects the New York state legislature will replace the proper cause requirement with a training requirement.

He also predicted that New York state legislators will shift their focus toward where gun owners have the right to carry firearms — like schools, hospitals and government buildings.

“It wasn’t an issue in this case, but the Supreme Court has said it’s not casting doubt on prohibitions on carrying guns in sensitive places,” Ruben explained. “One of the things I’d expect to happen is that there’ll be an increased focus on what places are [labeled] sensitive.”

Outside New York, increased public scrutiny could also pressure lawmakers to tighten gun laws. The Gallup poll found that 55 percent of voters polled say gun control has become an “extremely important” factor when considering how they’ll vote in the midterms in November.

“Senators are getting pressure from their constituents, and it looks like they’re being responsive to public opinion,” Jones said. On Friday, for example, the Senate sent a bipartisan gun control bill to President Joe Biden’s desk. “What they’re talking about doesn’t go as far as a lot of people would like, but they are taking steps to address the issues,” Jones said.

Thanks to Alicia Benjamin for copy editing this article.

  • Kaila Philo
    Kaila Philo

    Government and Political Institutions Reporter

    Kaila Philo is a reporter at Grid where she focuses on the U.S. government and political institutions.