The US Supreme Court has ruled that the Constitution gives people the right to carry a gun outside their home, in a significant new ruling for gun rights.
The decision is expected to allow more people to legally carry firearms in some of America’s biggest cities – such as LA, New York and Boston – and is the court’s first major decision on gun rights in more than a decade.
It comes as Congress is working on changes to gun laws following shootings in Texas, where 19 children and two teachers were murdered, and in Buffalo, where 10 people were killed at a supermarket.
Thousands have since taken to the streets across the US demanding tighter gun control.
But the Supreme Court justices quashed a New York state law – in place since 1913 – that required people to show a particular need in order to get a license to carry a concealed gun in public.
They said it violated the Constitution’s Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms.”
New York Governor Kathy Hochul called the decision “absolutely shocking” and said she was “sorry this dark day has come.”
Joe Biden, whose administration had urged the court to keep the status quo, said he was “deeply disappointed.”
He said it contradicted “both common sense and the constitution, and should deeply trouble us all”.
“I call on Americans across the country to make their voices heard on gun safety. Lives are on the line,” the president added.
However, the powerful gun group, the National Rifle Association, called the decision a “monumental win for NRA members and for gun owners across the country.”
People can legally carry a gun in public in much of the US, but it is more difficult in some states.
In New York, “proper cause” has to be shown when applying for an unrestricted concealed-carry license. This includes showing an actual, rather than a speculative, need for self-defence.
California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Hawaii, Maryland, and Rhode Island have similar laws that are now likely to be challenged.
Supporters of the New York law had argued that a change would lead to more guns on the streets and violent crime.
But the court concluded that the Constitution protects “an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.”
Justice Clarence Thomas, who authored the ruling, said the New York law “prevents law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defence needs from exercising their right to keep and bear arms.”
How do US gun laws work and why have attempts to restrict them failed?
He added: “We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to
government officers some special need.”
The ruling was split 6-3, with the conservative justices backing the change and the liberal members dissenting.
The Supreme Court last ruled on gun rights in 2008 and 2010 when it said the Second Amendment enshrined the right to keep a gun inside the home.
Current efforts to tighten laws after the horror of Uvalde and Buffalo are set to be the most significant for decades – but still modest due to resistance from Republicans and gun rights’ groups to infringing on the Second Amendment.
Its proposals include tightening background checks for gun buyers convicted of domestic violence or significant crimes as juveniles.
Tougher changes backed by Democrats, such as a ban on assault-style weapons or high-capacity magazines, have been excluded from the bipartisan bill.