The United States Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the carrying of guns in public cannot be restricted by state laws. In practice, the sentence opens space for more armed people to circulate on the streets, at a time when the country is debating ways to avoid new shooting massacres.
The decision comes the same week that senators launched a bipartisan bill to limit access to firearms, with the aim of preventing further shootings in public places. The proposal awaits a vote in the Senate.
The court ruled on Thursday as unconstitutional a 1913 New York state law that required people interested in carrying a pistol in the streets to provide a justification for doing so. A majority of the judges, by 6 to 3, ruled that restrictions like this one go against the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, which guarantees citizens the possession and possession of weapons.
Other states, such as Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey, have similar laws, which are now set to expire.
Initial analyzes point to the decision as one of the biggest expansions of the right to bear arms ever made in the country. Over the decades, the Supreme Court has rarely taken a stand on the issue, which has left room for statewide regulations.
President Joe Biden, who has proposed projects to restrict access to guns in the country, said he was “deeply disappointed”. For New York Governor Kathy Hochul, Democrat, the decision is “absolutely shocking” and means that “a day of darkness has arrived”.
The decision is yet another effect of the appointment of conservative judges by former Republican President Donald Trump, which changed the balance of forces in the house. The court has already indicated that it can reverse access to abortion, now widely guaranteed in the country by decision of the institution itself in 1973.
The case that reached the Supreme Court was initiated by two men, Robert Nash and Brandon Koch, who had challenged the law in court for not being able to get a permit to carry a gun at all times, as they would have liked. They argued that this limited citizens’ possibilities to defend themselves.
Thursday’s ruling asserts that the US Constitution protects “the right of an individual to carry a weapon for self-defense outside the home.” For Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, there is “no other constitutional right that an individual can exercise only after demonstrating to government officials some special need.”
For liberal justice Stephen Breyer, who disagreed with most of his colleagues, “the court’s interpretation ignores significant dangers [que as armas representam ao país] and leaves states without the ability to address them,” he wrote.
The last major decision by the Court on the subject was in 2008, when judges held that Americans had the right to keep guns in their homes. At the time, the decision to carry a gun in public had been left open.
Meanwhile, the Senate waits to vote on a package of limitations on access to firearms, called the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. The proposal includes expanded background checks on firearms buyers and more federal funding for mental health programs.
The bill came after two gun massacres shocked the country and fueled the debate for greater control over access to weapons. On May 14, an 18-year-old man killed ten black people at a supermarket in the city of Buffalo, New York. Ten days later, another 18-year-old man killed 19 children and two teachers at a school in Uvalde, Texas.