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U.S. Supreme Court mulls New York gun rights case

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Beyond a raging political battle over limiting gun access is a case that could be heard this year by the U.S. Supreme Court over a New York law limiting the right to carry the weapons in public.

The nine U.S. high court justices met behind closed doors Friday to consider which cases they will take in their next term, including an appeal launched by five New Yorkers against a state law they say violates their “right to bear arms,” enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

Backed by the powerful National Rifle Association gun lobby, the five plaintiffs in the case said that their requests for permits to carry concealed firearms had been rejected by state officials.

The plaintiffs oppose the law, which says that to be given a permit to carry a firearm outside the home, a gun owner must clearly demonstrate that it is explicitly needed for self-defense.

“State law treats the carrying of handguns for self-defense not as a right, but as an administrative privilege lying beyond the reach of most people,” the plaintiffs said in their petition.

“Asserting that bearing arms is too dangerous to allow as a matter of course, New York forbids responsible, law-abiding adults from carrying handguns for self-defense unless they first demonstrate a ‘proper cause’ to do so.”

The law was upheld by a state appellate court shortly before the fatal shooting in December in Newtown, Connecticut, of 20 young schoolchildren that horrified Americans and galvanized gun-control activists.

If the nine U.S. justices decided to take the case, they will have to consider whether the gun rights provided by the Constitution secure an individual’s right to carry handguns for self-defense outside the home.

The New York statute is similar to laws passed in other U.S. states, including California and Hawaii and Maryland.

The high court decision on whether to take the case – which could come as soon as Monday – comes with the United States embroiled in a debate over passing what could prove to be the nation’s most ambitious gun safety legislation in a generation.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress agreed this week on expanding background checks, ahead of crucial votes next week on amendments to the bill that would tighten checks for firearms buyers, stiffen penalties for gun trafficking and boost school safety measures.

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