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New York Can Demand 'Proper Cause' for Concealed Carry Permit

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

If you -- or one of your clients -- want to carry a concealed handgun in public, you'll need a good reason and a little bit of luck.

This week, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a New York law requiring concealed-handgun license applicants to show a special need for self-protection in order to carry handguns, The Associated Press reports.

The plaintiffs in this case all want to carry handguns outside their homes for self-defense. Each applied for and was denied a full-carry concealed-handgun license by the County of Westchester for failing to establish "proper cause" -- a special need for self protection -- under New York law.

The plaintiffs, along with the Second Amendment Foundation, sued to contest the proper cause requirement. They argued that the proper cause provision violates the Second Amendment based on the Supreme Court's District of Columbia v. Heller holding.

Addressing the merits, the district court concluded that the concealed carrying of handguns in public is "outside the core Second Amendment concern articulated in Heller: self-defense in the home." In the alternative, the district court determined that the proper cause requirement would survive constitutional scrutiny even if it implicated the Second Amendment.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court.

The court distinguished the plaintiffs' claims from Heller, noting that New York's licensing scheme affects the ability to carry handguns only in public, while the D.C. ban overturned in Heller applied to the home, too. The appellate court further observed that the New York's requirement didn't completely ban the possession of handguns in public.

Applying intermediate scrutiny, the appellate court reasoned that the proper cause requirement could pass constitutional muster if it was substantially related to the achievement of an important governmental interest. Since the parties agreed that New York has substantial -- even compelling -- governmental interests in public safety and crime prevention, the limitation survived.

The Second Circuit also found that the proper cause requirement did not violate the Equal Protection clause because it did not discriminate against handgun license applicants, as the plaintiffs had argued.

The Second Amendment doesn't permit an outright ban on guns, but courts tend to back state restrictions limiting gun possession outside the home.

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