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In light of the text of the Second Amendment, along with the Nation’s history of firearm regulation, a State may not prevent law-abiding citizens from publicly carrying handguns because they have not demonstrated a special need for self-defense.
The State of New York made it a crime to possess a firearm without a license, whether inside or outside the home. An individual who wants to carry a firearm outside his home may obtain an unrestricted license to “have and carry” a concealed “pistol or revolver” if he can prove that “proper cause exists” for doing so. Petitioners Brandon Koch and Robert Nash are adult, law-abiding New York residents who both applied for unrestricted licenses to carry a handgun in public based on their generalized interest in self-defense. The State denied both of their applications for unrestricted licenses, allegedly because Koch and Nash failed to satisfy the “proper cause” requirement. Petitioners then sued respondents—state officials who oversee the processing of licensing applications—for declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that respondents violated their Second and Fourteenth Amendment rights by denying their unrestricted-license applications for failure to demonstrate a unique need for self-defense. The District Court dismissed petitioners’ complaint and the Court of Appeals affirmed.
Could a state prevent law-abiding citizens from publicly carrying handguns because they had not demonstrated a special need for self-defense?
The court reversed the judgment of the lower courts, holding that the State’s licensing regime violated the Constitution because the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protected an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home. A State could not prevent law-abiding citizens from publicly carrying handguns because they had not demonstrated a special need for self-defense.