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The Supreme Court will hear a gun-rights case dealing with the Second Amendment


The Supreme Court hears a case today that could decide whether people are allowed to carry concealed weapons into airports, churches, schools and shopping centers without a special license.


This case involves New York state, which is one of eight states that outlaws carrying guns outside of the home. And a decision on the scope of the Second Amendment, which is what this would be, may hinge on former President Donald Trump's three appointees.

INSKEEP: NPR's Carrie Johnson is covering this case. Carrie, good morning.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: So will you talk us through the legalities here on the Second Amendment?

JOHNSON: Sure. So remember in 2008, the Supreme Court declared that people have an individual right to bear arms for self-defense in their homes, and in 2010, the court applied that right to the states. Today, Steve, the open question is, does that Second Amendment right follow them outside their homes? A gun rights group and two New Yorkers want the right to carry concealed weapons outside and not just for things like target practice or hunting. The New York restrictions require them to demonstrate a special need for protection, but they say they should have a mostly unfettered right.

INSKEEP: So the New York state law is on the docket here. And of course, New York is a big state. This would be a big case regardless. But might this apply to all states in different ways?

JOHNSON: Well, many states already allow concealed carry, but eight states - that includes New York, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Maryland - do not. And that's a small number of states but a big population, something like 80 million people in those areas, according to experts at Duke University who follow gun rights issues. Now, depending on how the Supreme Court rules and how it decides to write the decision, this case could have much wider impact.

INSKEEP: What do you know about the current makeup of the justices and their views of gun rights?

JOHNSON: Here's what we know. The National Rifle Association supported all three of President Trump's - former President Trump's Supreme Court nominees. Justice Neil Gorsuch is on record saying he would have taken up earlier gun rights challenges the court rejected. And while they were appeals court judges, both Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett said they would have struck down some gun restrictions. Kavanaugh, for instance, has written about how the history matters to him, that any gun bans or restrictions need to be rooted in text, history and tradition. And Barrett said one of her most important writings on the lower courts was a dissenting opinion where she traced the history to conclude, in her view, that felons who aren't dangerous should be able to own guns. That is not the case now.

INSKEEP: Oh, that's very interesting. So their presumption is that you do have a right to carry weapons anywhere, is what I hear from some of that, except they want to find if there has been, in text or tradition, a specific prohibition that they can base current regulations on. Does the news play into this at all, the fact that we're in a time that - where it seems to be increasing gun violence, certainly increasing prominence of mass shootings?

JOHNSON: Well, the Justice Department and local police around the country are very concerned about gun homicides. Remember; in the landmark Heller case back in 2008, the late Justice Scalia left plenty of room to uphold some reasonable gun restrictions in places like schools. And interestingly enough, in this case in New York, there's a divide among political conservatives. And they are a little bit at issue. We're going to have to hear in the argument today how the Supreme Court justices show their hands, if they do.

INSKEEP: Carrie, thanks for your insights.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF ABSOFACTO'S "PAPER CRANE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.