Blue states scramble for fixes after Supreme Court eases rules on concealed carry of pistols

Gun Rights

Blue-state leaders are scrambling to draft legislative fixes in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling that imperiled state laws requiring people to show “proper cause” to carry a firearm.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat in one of several states directly impacted, signed an executive order Friday directing all state departments and agencies to come up with ways to regulate how and when guns may be carried or displayed.

More notably, he plans to work with legislators to “expand the number and types” of so-called sensitive places where the public carry of a firearm would be prohibited. Leaders in New York said they are eyeing a similar strategy as they try to box out guns from as many places as possible while avoiding sweeping geographic bans that would violate the new ruling.

“While the Supreme Court may have dispensed with common sense, it did affirm the long-standing rules that have prohibited the carrying of firearms in certain sensitive locations such as schools and government buildings,” Mr. Murphy said.

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He detailed a lengthy wish list of sensitive spaces that includes stadiums and arenas, public transit and bars or restaurants where alcohol is served. He also wants no-guns-allowed rules for daycare centers, long-term care centers and hospitals, as well as gathering spots like polling places, courthouses and government buildings.

Mr. Murphy also said guns should not be carried onto private property unless the owner expressly permits them.

The Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling on Thursday invalidated New York’s law governing concealed-carry permits, which required applicants to show they had a particular fear that justified the need to carry a weapon. Living in a high-crime neighborhood, for example, wasn’t necessarily a good enough reason.

The ruling was overshadowed by another Supreme Court ruling Friday that overturned the nationwide right to abortion in Roe v. Wade. But the fallout from the gun ruling, known as New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn., Inc. v. Bruen, impacted blue states more directly and will spark legislative debates across the country.

California, Hawaii, Maryland and Massachusetts have similar “may-issue” gun laws on the books, and so does the District of Columbia, though its statute has been on hold under a 2017 court ruling.

These places, along with New York and New Jersey, cover about a quarter of the country’s population.

Attorneys general in impacted states rushed to say they are brainstorming ways to reshuffle their restrictions while passing muster under the ruling.

“Our office has been watching this issue closely. We are working with the governor and the legislature to advance legislation that is both constitutional and will maintain safety for Californians,” California Attorney General Ron Bonta said. “In the wake of mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, and with gun deaths at an all-time high, ensuring that dangerous individuals are not allowed to carry concealed firearms is more important than ever.”

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh pledged “to determine its impact in our state, and we will continue to fight to protect the safety of Marylanders.”

“The epidemic of gun violence sweeping our nation demonstrates daily the folly of introducing more guns into this boiling cauldron,” he said.

Proponents of broader gun rights, meanwhile, see an opportunity.

State Sen. Edward Durr, a Republican who defeated the second-most powerful Democrat in New Jersey in November, said the court’s decision paved the way for legislation that replaces the justifiable need requirement with enhanced training.

“New Jersey’s extremely restrictive concealed carry law is clearly unconstitutional for the same reason that New York’s law was just struck down by the Supreme Court,” Mr. Durr said. “I have proposed eliminating the justifiable need requirement from our concealed carry law that the United States Supreme Court said violates the Second Amendment. Further, I have proposed requiring comprehensive training to ensure that those who would carry in public are well versed in the safe handling, use, and care of their firearms.”

Justice Brett Kavanaugh said states can impose training requirements or additional background checks on permit holders, but the criteria must be “objective.”

Mr. Durr’s bill may comport with the conservative majority’s opinion but faces long odds in the Democrat-controlled legislature in Trenton.

Mr. Murphy signaled his team will focus on limiting the reach of firearms where they can.

New Jersey State Police Superintendent Patrick J. Callahan said on his first day as a trooper, one motorist shot another on the side of the highway after a road-rage incident.

“I always thought, what if that motorist who filed that shot didn’t have access to that weapon. It probably would have ended with a few hand gestures and off they went,” he said.

The Garden State comments echoed a push New York Gov. Kathy Hochul outlined one day earlier.

Ms. Hochul, a Democrat facing reelection this year, said she wants to add new requirements to permits and expand the roster of sensitive locations where guns may be prohibited.

She is eyeing a special session in July to pass legislative fixes.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said establishing new sensitive zones would be important but also challenging, given the verbiage in the justices’ decision.

“The Supreme Court says you can’t block out all of Manhattan. That is problematic,” he told NBC 4. “Particularly when you look at the Times Square area. We had over 300-something-thousand people [who] visited Times Square last Monday. Our tourism is returning. And when you state you cannot create those public areas or governmental areas as sensitive locations, it just makes it extremely challenging for our city, our subway system.”

Not everyone in New York is upset with the court.

The top GOP contenders for governor, Andrew H. Giuliani and Rep. Lee Zeldin, praised the decision as a win for constitutional rights.

“While Kathy Hochul, the former A-rated NRA member of Congress, becomes more a walking identity crisis each passing day, she better not make her next move on this yet another assault on law-abiding New Yorkers,” Mr. Zeldin said. “If Hochul does, it will make it even more likely that I get elected to her position in November because New Yorkers need and deserve a governor who unapologetically defends freedoms, liberty and the Constitution.”

Alex Swoyer contributed to this report.

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