Cleary Files Amicus Brief in Support of New York State’s Firearm Licensing Regime

September 21, 2021

Cleary Gottlieb filed an amicus curiae brief on September 21, 2021, in the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of a group of social scientists and public health researchers who study gun violence—including Stanford Law School professor John Donohue—in support of New York State’s firearm licensing regime that limits applicants seeking a license to carry a firearm in public to those that are able to show a “proper cause” need to carry a gun in self-defense.

New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen,  the Supreme Court’s first major Second Amendment decision in over a decade, centers on whether, under the Second Amendment, a state may place any restrictions upon its citizens’ carrying of firearms in public beyond those in District of Columbia v. Heller. In that case, the court had stated that the Second Amendment right is not “unlimited” and longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places were allowed. In the upcoming case, the court may also resolve the circuit split on the standard of review (strict or intermediate scrutiny) for Second Amendment challenges.

The amicus brief urges the court to affirm the judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and rule that the Second Amendment gives states the ability to enact firearm regulations that suit the needs of their populations and set restrictions on carrying firearms outside the home.

Amici argue that in evaluating New York’s licensing regime under the Second Amendment, courts should consider empirical evidence from a well-developed body of social science and public health data that shows that New York’s licensing regime leads to less gun violence and safer outcomes, while states with “right-to-carry” regimes—that grant concealed carry permits with few restrictions—experience increased homicide, violent crime, gun thefts, and police violence. Based on well-established precedent, the judiciary can and should defer to the legislature, who rely on this type of empirical evidence that falls outside the judiciary’s expertise.

The New York Attorney General cited Cleary’s amicus brief in her merits brief to the court, relying on it for the proposition that New York’s law is supported by substantial evidence because jurisdictions that restrict public carry of firearms “experience lower rates of gun-related homicides and other violent crimes.”

The oral argument is scheduled for November 3, 2021. Read the amicus brief here.