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As Second Amendment Case Looms, Each Side Advocates A Different Approach to Interpreting the Constitution. Under Either, the Supreme Court Should Uphold New York’s Law.


On November 3, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, a case challenging the constitutionality under the Second Amendment of a New York law regulating the concealed carry of firearms in public. Everytown filed an amicus brief in September, defending the constitutionality of New York’s law. As you prepare to cover the case, here are some things to keep in mind about the approaches the Court can take in evaluating the New York law:

  • Federal courts have laid out an approach to interpreting the Second Amendment that protects both rights and public safety, and the Supreme Court should use this approach. Since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook School, states have passed over 300 gun safety laws, and a number of these laws have been challenged in court. As appellate courts around the country have considered these cases, they have developed a consistent and effective framework for evaluating the constitutionality of gun violence prevention measures. Under this framework, a court first asks whether the challenged law burdens conduct falling within the scope of the Second Amendment as historically understood. If so, the court then goes on to ask whether the challenged law adequately advances an important government interest – reducing gun violence or promoting other public interests. The courts have upheld the overwhelming majority of gun laws using this framework.
  • Even under an originalist approach, gun safety measures like New York’s law are constitutional. Many conservative judges, as well as the NRA, argue for an “originalist” or “text, history, and tradition” approach to constitutional interpretation, under which the public’s understanding of the Constitution in the founding era establishes its meaning today. But even that approach strongly supports New York State’s position that its licensing law is constitutional. As Everytown’s amicus brief explains, laws regulating carrying a firearm in public — including laws doing so more restrictively than the challenged New York law — date back to at least 14th century England and have existed throughout American history. In fact, gun safety measures like New York’s law “enjoy an almost singularly impressive historical lineage among firearms regulations.” 

Read Everytown Law’s amicus brief here. Legal experts from Everytown Law are available for interviews ahead of oral argument.