DENVER — A case currently before the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) could thwart part of an anti-gun rights bill that was recently passed by the Colorado legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis.
The bill in question, Senate Bill 21-256, unwinds decades of state preemption on firearms law by allowing local government entities, including special taxing districts, to pass more restrictive gun measures than those currently in place under state law, including a ban on concealed carry by lawfully permitted citizens.
Although the SCOTUS case — New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc., et al. v. Kevin P. Bruen, in his official capacity as Superintendent of the New York State Police, et al. — originated in New York, several interested parties in Colorado have filed an amicus brief in support of the petitioners.
Such briefs may be filed by those who are not actually parties to the case, to add information from those who might assist the court with expertise or insight that has a bearing on the case.
The brief was filed by Colorado attorney David Kopel, who leads the Second Amendment project for the Denver-based Independence Institute* along with two other attorneys. It was filed on behalf of the Independence Institute, Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams, several law professors, and the Firearms Policy Foundation.
The case tests whether officials have the right to restrict where the conceal carry permits issued to two New York residents would be valid. According to Reuters, a state firearms licensing officer granted two gun owners (Robert Nash and Brandon Koch) concealed carry permits but restricted the validity to hunting and target practice. Nash and Koch, along with the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, sued.
A lower court rejected the petitioner’s claim that the restrictions violated the U.S. Constitution’s 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms and the Supreme Court agreed to take up the appeal.
“The Second Amendment places the right to bear arms on equal footing with the right to keep arms,” Kopel writes in the introduction to the brief. “As dictionaries from the founding era attest, to “bear arms” includes public carriage for lawful purposes. Americans were the first Englishmen to have a written guarantee of arms rights. From the earliest colonial days, they carried arms to church, court, public assemblies, travel, work in the field, and most everywhere else they pleased—starting in childhood.”
New York state law requires residents who want a concealed carry permit to show “proper cause,” the Reuters article says. “Under it, residents may obtain licenses restricted to hunting and target practice, or if they hold jobs such as a bank messenger or correctional officer. To carry a concealed handgun without restriction, applicants must convince a firearms licensing officer that they have an actual, rather than speculative, need for self-defense.”
Kopel pointed to previous cases before SCOTUS, English law, contemporary dictionaries and other sources that found the right to “keep” and “bear” arms were on equal footing.
Reams said he put his name on the brief because he will be part of anything to fight to keep the 2nd Amendment in its truest form.
“When we start chipping away at that in any part of the country, it opens the door here locally,” Reams said. “I’ve been vocal on the idea that we don’t police the citizens. We police with the citizens and part of that is letting them having the ability to protect themselves with weapons of their choice.”
If the court rules in favor of the petitioners, it could make concealed carry bans allowed under SB-256–such as the one currently being proposed by Foothills Parks and Recreation District in Jefferson County–void if justices set parameters for what are considered “sensitive areas,” such as current prohibitions on schools and courthouses.
In summary the brief says the 2nd Amendment’s text protects the right to carry arms.
“History and tradition confirm this meaning,” the brief says. “New York’s statutes violate the right and should be held unconstitutional.”
*Independence Institute is the publisher of Complete Colorado.
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