Bruen - Quick Reactions & Live Thread

  • Date:
  • November 03, 2021

This morning, the Supreme Court held oral argument in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen. The case has the potential to revolutionize Second Amendment doctrine, and we've covered the case several times on this blog, including in the overview post here and our what-to-watch-at-argument post here. We'll have much more to say in the days and weeks ahead about what to make of the oral arguments and our reactions to both the advocates and the justices, but for now, here are some of our very quick, initial first takes on several aspects of this morning's discussion:

  • The justices appeared skeptical about the NY law, and particularly the discretion it affords licensing officials.
  • There was a lot of focus on place-restrictions - I think the justices wanted to be sure that if they struck down the law it wouldn't mean guns were just allowed everywhere. (Justice Barrett asked about guns in Time Square on New Year's Eve, for example.)
  • It was hard to get a read on methodology, but I'd say it seemed like several of the justices were leaning toward text, history, and tradition but with acknowledgement of the hard historical lines and contested historical landscape. 
  • Race seemed to play a less salient role than I think we expected, especially from the amicus briefing. 
  • Several of the justices--including surprisingly Justice Thomas--seemed to think maybe it was okay to have gun laws vary by locality, like from urban to rural areas. Others seemed much more skeptical of that notion. 
  • None of the justices appeared particularly worked about about the notion of a permit at all, but instead about a discretionary permit like in this context. (And the challengers' counsel did not argue that all permits are unconstitutional, only this kind.)

I also live-tweeted my way through the argument, so to tide people over until there's a transcript (or to read a condensed version of the transcript), here's a link to the thread: