The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a New York law giving state officials discretion in granting concealed carry permits for firearms — effectively establishing a nationwide right to carry guns outside the home.
The case arose from a New York state regulation that required gun owners to demonstrate “proper cause” to receive a license to carry a handgun in public, meaning they must show a greater-than-average need for self-defense to carry a gun outside their home. Similar rules — called “may issue” licensing laws — exist in six other states and Washington, D.C.
Not on that list? Florida, which is among the majority of states with “shall-issue” licensing laws, meaning officials must grant a license to carry to anybody who meets a set of objective criteria.
The ruling doesn’t nullify any of Florida’s current firearm laws. But it may invite new challenges against them and increase barriers for any future gun control legislation in the state or across the country.
Thursday’s decision expanded on a landmark 2008 decision that established the right to carry a gun for self-defense in the home, holding that the same rights apply to “ordinary, law-abiding” citizens carrying handguns in public.
Florida currently bans open carry, which would allow individuals to carry firearms in a manner where they are visible to others. But the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services grants licenses for concealed carry — the ability to carry a gun that is hidden from view — to anybody who meets requirements such as demonstrating proficiency in handling a firearm and not having a felony conviction.
Since those requirements are “objective,” unlike those in New York and other “may issue” states, the ruling likely won’t have any effect on them, said Adam Winkler, a UCLA School of Law professor who specializes in gun policy.
But the decision may still loom large over the lower courts in future gun rights battles, Winkler told the Tampa Bay Times a day before the ruling came down.
A concurring opinion written by Justice Brett Kavanaugh clarified that the ruling does not prohibit states from having licensing requirements for carrying a handgun outside the home, or from imposing a variety of other restrictions on gun ownership. It only strikes down the “discretionary licensing regimes” in place in New York and other states.
While the ruling doesn’t directly touch on the type of restrictions Florida has in place, Sean Caranna, executive director of Florida Carry, a Florida-based gun rights organization, said he thinks it offers a new legal basis for challenges against them.
Caranna said his organization is already drafting complaints based on the decision.
“Does it change much today? No,” Caranna said. “Are cases about to be filed? Absolutely.”
Caranna said his organization is considering challenging Florida’s open-carry ban, including for long guns, a category that includes semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15, the weapon used in the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting.
He said he thinks gun rights advocates in Florida will also eye the 21-year-old age minimum for purchasing firearms, which U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, then-Florida governor, signed into law in the wake of the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
Winkler also predicted that age minimum laws could face more challenges after the court’s ruling.
“While Florida doesn’t have too many restrictive laws that are likely to be called into question, I do think we’re likely to see some challenges in the future to age-based restrictions on firearms for people under the age of 21,” Winkler said.
He added that the Supreme Court decision will likely “signal a new era of judicial scrutiny of gun laws.”