Supreme Court makes it harder for states to restrict guns — but ruling shouldn’t affect Texas’ loose rules

A gun store near Independence. (Bob Daemmrich For The Texas Tribune, Bob Daemmrich For The Texas Tribune)

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On the heels of a deadly shooting in Uvalde, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that people have a constitutional right to carry handguns for self-defense.

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The decision, which struck down a New York gun law restricting concealed carry of handguns, will have broad implications in states and cities with strict gun laws. But it won’t impact gun regulation in Texas, which has far more lenient rules.

Texans 21 and older can openly carry handguns without a license or training if they are not legally prevented from doing so by the state. The permitless carry law passed in 2021, part of GOP lawmakers’ efforts to loosen gun restrictions in recent legislative sessions.

The century-old New York law that was overturned said residents need to prove “a proper cause” to carry a handgun for self-defense in public. In a 6-3 ruling, the nation’s highest court said the New York law violated the Second Amendment. That decision will make it significantly harder for states or the federal government to impose gun restrictions, even as Congress is on the verge of finding a rare compromise on gun legislation in the aftermath of the Uvalde shooting.

“The exercise of other constitutional rights does not require individuals to demonstrate to government officers some special need. The Second Amendment right to carry arms in public for self-defense is no different,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in the majority opinion.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer raised the need for gun regulation in the face of the dangers of firearms. He pointed to the scourge of gun violence in the country, including the shooting in Uvalde last month that killed 19 schoolchildren and two educators.

“The Amendment allows States to take account of the serious problems posed by gun violence that I have just described. I fear that the Court’s interpretation ignores these significant dangers and leaves States without the ability to address them,” Breyer wrote, an opinion joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Gun rights advocates in Texas and beyond celebrated the ruling.

“For Texans, the direct impact is not as great but it does lock down our rights as law abiding citizens to carry with a license outside our homes no matter who is running the government (state or federal),” Andi Turner, legislative director of the Texas State Rifle Association, said in an email to supporters.

Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa called the ruling “tone-deaf” and said the party would continue pushing for gun control legislation. Hinojosa has been asking Gov. Greg Abbott and GOP lawmakers to hold a special legislative session over gun regulation since the shooting in Uvalde.

Meanwhile, a month after the shooting in Uvalde, a bipartisan gun bill backed by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas is on a fast track through Congress. If enacted, it would be the first major legislation on gun safety since 1994.

The legislation includes state grants to incentivize red flag laws, allowing judges to temporarily seize firearms from people who are deemed dangerous. Texas likely won’t adopt that provision.

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