Justice Clarence Thomas opened the floodgates for all sorts of gun safety laws to be challenged in federal court.
The 6-3 Supreme Court decision striking down a type of gun carry restriction embraced by only six states, will have the effect of making all sorts of regulations all across the country vulnerable to new legal challenges.
Thomas changed the test courts are to use when analyzing the constitutionality of such regulations. Only firearm regulations that are “consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition” comply with Second Amendment’s protections, he wrote, in an assertion that puts in jeopardy any restriction that does not have a historical parallel to the nation’s founding.
This new standard will change the legal playing field around gun laws.
There are cases already in motion where courts will now adjust their approach and raise the threshold that governments will have to overcome in defending their gun safety laws. The ruling will also likely prompt a bevy of new legal challenges, with gun rights proponents now able to push more aggressive arguments for why a restriction should be struck down.
Up for grabs is not just public carry laws like the New York regime before the court. Virtually any other type of gun regulation, including age-based regulations, restrictions on certain types of firearms and limits on high-capacity magazines, will now be viewed by courts in a harsher light.
In the fallout of a case called District of Columbia v Heller – a landmark 2008 ruling where the Supreme Court established that the Second Amendment protect an individual’s right to bear arms – appeals courts across the country had coalesced around a two-step legal approach for analyzing the constitutionality of a gun regulation.