2nd Circuit Weighs In On Handgun Regulation

The horrible tragedy at Sandy Hook elementary school has renewed the gun regulation debate. With 2nd Amendment protections being championed by gun advocates, is regulation of firearms even possible? A recent New York case Kachalsky et al. v. Cty. of Westchester et al decided by the US Court of Appeals 2nd Circuit illuminates their co-existence with 2nd amendment constitutional safeguards. There it upheld a regulatory scheme that resulted in firearm applicants being denied carry permits for failing to show proper cause pursuant to N.Y. Penal Law § 400.00(2)(f). To establish proper cause to obtain a license without any restrictions an applicant must “demonstrate a special need for self-protection distinguishable from that of the general community or of persons engaged in the same profession. Each Applicant failed to demonstrate this need instead citing general qualifications such as being a citizen of good standing. Applicants cited 2nd Amendment on appeal arguing that each had an unfettered right to possess and carry a firearm. New York’s proper cause statute provided sufficient standards and passed constitutional muster according to the Appeals Court. May this offer a safe harbor to communities seeking to limit access to automatic weaponry? While the 2nd Amendment has been invoked to strike down laws prohibiting firearms generally, the laws found to be constitutionally infirm have applied to firearms in the home. In public, the government has a legitimate interest to regulate firearms under its police powers to promote safety in the community. How might this affect future legislation? This decision only applied to handguns. Could its reach extend to regulation of assault rifles and other high-powered weaponry? The 2nd Amendment was enacted over 200 years ago during an age of low-tech musket rifles. To the extent these weapons exceed what would normally be required for self-defense could regulations be imposed limiting possession?