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What SCOTUS striking down New York's concealed-carry law means for gun laws

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

New York's governor, Kathy Hochul, reacted following the decision.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KATHY HOCHUL: This decision isn't just reckless. It's reprehensible. It's not what New Yorkers want. If the federal government will not have sweeping laws to protect us, then our states and our governors have a moral responsibility to do what we can because of what is going on, the insanity of the gun culture that has now possessed everyone all the way up to even the Supreme Court.

FADEL: To further discuss the implications of this ruling, I'm joined now by Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center. Thank you for being here.

MICHAEL WALDMAN: Thank you.

FADEL: So this is the first Second Amendment case that the court has decided in more than a decade. What does this tell you about how this court views the Second Amendment?

WALDMAN: You're right. And in many ways, it is the most sweeping expansion of gun rights any Supreme Court case has put forward. It was only in 2008 that the Supreme Court said that the Second Amendment represents an individual right for gun ownership for self-defense. This is much greater in its impact, not only in New York but around the country as well.

FADEL: How has the court's interpretation of the clause well-organized militia changed in recent years?

WALDMAN: Well, they've basically ignored it. They've erased it. The original meaning of the Second Amendment was at a time when all men were required to be in the militia from age 16 to 60 and required by law to own a gun. And that's what bear arms was referring to. But what the Supreme Court has said is it's really now about an individual right. And what they said today - and this is why the opinion is going to be so sweeping in its impact even beyond New York's law, which has been on the books for a century. Ever since that 2008 case and another case in 2010, hundreds of opinions by courts in America - hundreds of federal court and state court opinions have said, well, OK, how do we know what kind of gun laws are constitutional? And they said, yes, there's an individual right. We look to see whether that right is affected.

But the public has rights, too. Public safety matters. And courts have balanced these things. And about 90% of the gun laws that have been challenged over the past decade have been upheld. Well, today the Supreme Court said, no, you did it wrong. What you need to look at is history. And by the way, the Supreme Court's use of history here is intellectually dishonest in the way it cherry-picks things. I wrote a book of history about the Second Amendment, and I know that there was far greater regulation of guns than Justice Clarence Thomas' opinion would admit.

But basically, what this means is that the NRA and other gun rights adherents will have a do-over and can challenge and will challenge dozens and dozens of gun laws well outside New York, well outside the issue of handguns, saying that all the courts that upheld them in the past, they just were doing it wrong. And now they have to find their inner Clarence Thomas to understand what's allowed. The court gave very little guidance here as to what it would actually regard as a sensitive place and things like that. The result in all of this will be more guns, more violence on the streets of places like New York - but chaos when it tries to come to passing gun regulation that will keep us safe while protecting people's rights.

FADEL: Michael Waldman of the Brennan Center, thank you so much for being on the program.

WALDMAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.