The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that Americans have a fundamental right to carry firearms in public in a landmark decision that came just weeks after another deadly school shooting.
The 6-3 ruling repeals a New York law that requires a person to prove they have legitimate self-defense needs in order to obtain a gun license and will prevent states from restricting people who carry guns.
Despite growing calls for firearms restrictions after two mass shootings stunned the country in May, the court sided with lawyers who said the US Constitution guarantees the right to own and carry guns.
The ruling is the first by the court in a major Second Amendment case in a decade and a victory for the powerful gun lobby, the National Rifle Association.
“Today’s ruling is a turning point for good men and women across America and is the culmination of a decades-long struggle that has led the NRA,” NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said in a statement.
“The right to self-defense and to defend your family and loved ones should not end at home.”
Writing the majority opinion, Judge Clarence Thomas said, “The Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect a person’s right to carry a gun for self-defense outdoors.
“The New York City requirement of good cause violates the Fourteenth Amendment by preventing law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their Second Amendment right to keep and carry weapons in public for self-defense.”
The US Senate is currently considering a rare bipartisan bill that includes modest gun control measures.
On May 14, an 18-year-old used an AR-15-type assault rifle to kill 10 African Americans at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York.
Less than two weeks later, 19 children and two teachers were shot and killed at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, by another teenager with the same type of high-powered, semi-automatic rifle.
New York law said that in order to be licensed to carry a firearm outdoors, a gun owner must clearly demonstrate that it is explicitly necessary for self-defense — meaning those without the demonstrated need cannot do so.
Gun rights advocates said this violated the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which states that “the right of people to have and bear weapons should not be violated”.
More than half of US states already allow the unauthorized carrying of firearms, most only within the past decade.
But more than 20 still maintain restrictions that they could now lift based on the court’s ruling.
In the ruling, the court overturned a 1913 New York state law based on the understanding that individual states had the right to regulate the use and ownership of guns.
Over the past two decades, more than 200 million firearms, spearheaded by assault rifles and personal pistols, have entered the U.S. market, increasing homicides, mass shootings and suicides.