In the aftermath of New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn., Inc. v. Bruen, the Twitter mafia, including some students and educators, have already claimed that the decision will result in more mass killings. It is likely-especially in light of the horrifying massacre in Uvalde-that discussion about Bruen may arise in classrooms around the country.
The first question for civics instructors should be whether a class should discuss the case at all. Not every current event must appear in the classroom, especially if the teacher isn’t well-versed in the topic or it doesn’t relate to the class content. But if any teachers insist on discussing the Bruen case with students, they should at least do so correctly.
The majority held in Bruen that “New York’s proper-cause requirement violates the Fourteenth Amendment by preventing law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms in public for self-defense.”
At issue was New York’s requirement that citizens show “proper cause” — in essence, a compelling need to defend one’s self — in order to obtain a concealed carry permit. In most states, a person only needs to satisfy basic requirements to obtain a concealed carry permit in a system known as “shall issue.”
Writing for the 6-3 majority, Clarence Thomas stated that New York’s policy was a violation of DC v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago, both of which established an individual right to bear arms in the privacy of one’s home. Bruen expanded that individual right to keep and bear arms to concealed carry outside the home. In addition, Thomas noted, citing Heller, that “Second Amendment ‘i‘s the very product of an interest balancing by the people,’’ and it ‘‘surely elevates above all other interests the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms’’ for self-defense.”
What the case does not do is abolish concealed carry permitting or require mutual reciprocity between states. In more than 40 states, the extant concealed carry permitting systems will remain entirely unchanged.
Ergo, if civics teachers decide to discuss the Bruen ruling in their classrooms, they should do so with moderation, sticking with the facts of the case and avoiding the hyperbole of social media. While Bruen does dramatically expand Second Amendment rights in the constitutional sense, the effect on current policy will be decidedly limited.