In closely watched gun law case, NYCLU argues the Second Amendment can infringe upon the First

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments today in a closely watched case that could have wide-ranging effects on Americans’ ability to carry concealed, loaded guns in public places.

At the center of the case — The New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen — questions whether the Second Amendment allows the government to prohibit ordinary law-abiding citizens from carrying handguns outside the home for self- defense.

In late September, The New York Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, stating the need for an increase in gun control in public spaces to protect democratic participation and Freedom of Speech. 

The amicus brief, filed September 22, argues that restrictions on guns in public spaces are appropriate to make public spaces safe for democratic participation, including First Amendment activity such as assembly, association and speech. 

“This is a case about the Second Amendment, but its resolution also implicates fundamental First Amendment values,” the brief begins. “States have many justifications for regulating the public carrying of weapons, concealed or otherwise. But one especially important justification is that such restrictions facilitate civic engagement, by promoting safety and reducing the chances that the disagreements inevitable in a robust democracy do not lead to lethal violence.

“Accordingly, in assessing the validity of New York’s regulation of the carrying of concealed weapons in public, the Court should give due regard to the state’s important interest in facilitating a wide open public debate.”

The joint ACLU and NYCLU amicus brief states “one cannot know whether or when an armed person will turn to violence in response to a remark that offends him,” suggesting that the implied threat of potential threat of violence would force some people to hold back their opinions and to participate less in public discussions and debates.

The NYCLU and ACLU brief says this makes the case a First Amendment issue because speech is likely to be restricted.

“For centuries, restrictions on concealed weapons have been an important part of maintaining the peace in which social, civic and economic life thrive,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman.