June 23, 2022

ACS Statement in Response to Supreme Court Decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen


Contact: Pablo Willis, pwillis@acslaw.org 

Washington, DC — The Supreme Court issued a final decision today in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, striking down a 108-year-old NY state law that placed sensible limits on who can be licensed to carry a handgun in public and making the United States a gravely less safe place to live in the process. The decision’s holding that “the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect an individual's right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home,” has the potential to be abused and mischaracterized by right-wing judges and opponents of gun violence prevention to chill future local, state, and federal efforts to pass common sense gun regulations. The Court’s conservative supermajority substituted its own partisan preferences for the popular will of the residents of New York and the judgment of their lawmakers.

The supermajority betrays a core weakness of originalism by relying on its own reading of history—and dismissing much of the historical evidence offered by New York State—to undermine gun safety legislation, ignoring completely the prevalence and lethality of gun violence today. This is particularly galling given that the decision was handed down just a few months after a handgun was used in a mass shooting on a Brooklyn subway train and mere weeks after this country witnessed horrific mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde that cry out for gun safety measures.

“We are in the midst of a lethal gun epidemic in this country. As we saw in Uvalde, it is easier for an 18-year old to buy a gun than to get a driver’s license. And, despite what gun proponents have been saying for years—including during oral arguments in this case—this country has amassed a tragic trove of data in recent decades proving that ‘good guys with guns’ do not decrease the likelihood or lethality of mass shootings. Today, our highest court thumbed its nose at this epidemic, opting to make it harder for states to address gun violence with common sense gun safety regulations,” said Russ Feingold, ACS President. “The conservative packed Court distorted history and embraced an interpretation of the law far outside the mainstream of legal thinking in an attempt to justify its extremist decision. This is the majority using its unchecked power to advance a strictly partisan agenda, at the dangerous expense of public safety. The Court’s actions beg for reform.”

“It is no coincidence that the Court decided to take up this case now, more than a decade after Heller,” said Zinelle October, ACS Executive Vice President. “In 2017, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case challenging a similar California law. It was only after the Right packed the Court that the conservative supermajority decided to hear another Second Amendment challenge, confident that they had the votes for the extremist opinion released today. The Court continues to compound its existential legitimacy crisis and must be reformed, lest we wake up tomorrow and are unable to recognize the laws dictating our lives.”



ACS believes that the Constitution is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” We interpret the Constitution based on its text and against the backdrop of history and lived experience. Through a diverse nationwide network of progressive lawyers, law students, judges, scholars, and many others, we work to uphold the Constitution in the 21st Century by ensuring that law is a force for protecting our democracy and the public interest and for improving people’s lives. For more information, visit us at www.acslaw.org or on Twitter @acslaw.