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Pro-gun leader reacts to Supreme Court ruling on New York concealed carry laws

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Today's Supreme Court decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen is the first time the high court has weighed in on how the right to bear arms applies to guns in public places. New York is not the only state that requires concealed carry permits. Several cities and states, including California, have similar laws on the books, and this ruling throws them into question.

Sam Paredes is the executive director of the Gun Owners of California, which filed an amicus brief in this case. He joins me now. Welcome.

SAM PAREDES: It's a pleasure to be here with you, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Let me ask what the conversation is. What are you hearing from fellow gun owners since the decision came down this morning?

PAREDES: Everybody is absolutely ecstatic with the ruling. Justice Thomas responded to all of the requests that we made in our amicus brief not only to consider that arbitrary shall-issue concealed carry weapons permits laws are unconstitutional under the Second and the 14th Amendment, but also that the court would give a directive to all of the lower courts to refrain - to stop using two-step judicial balancing tests when considering Second Amendment cases, that it's just one step - the text, history and tradition of the meaning of the words at the founding when the Second Amendment was ratified.

KELLY: So this is exactly what you were hoping for?

PAREDES: Absolutely spot on - exactly what we were hoping for.

KELLY: Elsewhere on the program today, I interviewed Andrea Stewart-Cousins. She is the New York State Senate majority leader. She's a Democrat. She's preparing to return to Albany for a special session. They are looking at new laws that could restrict carrying handguns in sensitive locations and strengthening the permitting process for gun owners, et cetera. Is there room for that in your view?

PAREDES: Justice Thomas was clear as to what would constitute a sensitive place and that it has to have a relationship to what they considered sensitive places at the founding. So I am confident that anything that the New York state legislature comes up with will be declared unconstitutional.

KELLY: We are in a moment in this country where there are too many mass shootings - I mean, anything other than zero...

PAREDES: No question.

KELLY: ...Would be too many, of course - where everyone would like to see gun violence going down.

PAREDES: Agree 100%.

KELLY: A hundred percent.

PAREDES: We are all about wanting to see the misuse of firearms go down - the criminal misuse of firearms go down. But we have sat here with hundreds of laws that have been passed to try to address this issue, and they still don't prevent them.

KELLY: Do you think there's anything - any law, anything legislators could do - that would reduce gun violence that would be acceptable to you?

PAREDES: Absolutely. Absolutely. We think that those people that are violent people should be removed from society and incarcerated and left there for a long period of time because, first of all, you're not going to prevent them from getting guns. That horse left the barn 500 million guns ago. But if we separate them from society and keep them away from general society, I think we'll see far less incidences of criminal misuse of firearms.

With regards to mass shootings and things, why don't we sit down and evaluate, OK, what were the issues that took some of these people to the brink of being able to commit these atrocities? What are those issues? The answers are things that a lot of our policymakers don't want to entertain. Is it parenting issues? Is it educational issues? Is it economic issues? Is it that we make it too hard for businesses to create jobs, to give people a sense of purpose? So those are all issues that I believe will work to reduce violent crime.

KELLY: Last question.

PAREDES: Yes, ma'am.

KELLY: And this is a genuine question. Why do you think this only happens in America? - mass shootings, I mean. There are other countries where people are mentally ill. There are other countries where people are mad. There are other countries where people are inclined to violence.

PAREDES: That is a very good question and a sincere question, and I take it as a sincere question. The fact of the matter is that mass shootings do occur in other countries that have vastly...

KELLY: Nothing like the level that we have here.

PAREDES: That's true. That's true. Because along with liberty and freedom, there are, you know, criminals who take advantage of that. And as long as our policymakers don't deal with the criminals who take advantage of the freedoms and liberties that we have here in America, we are going to continue to see violent crime. We have a case in France and England where somebody took a dump truck and mowed people down. It's a criminal problem, not a weapon problem that we have.

KELLY: And I - and it is a genuine question, but I'm just trying to follow the logic 'cause I don't hear you making the case that the answer to a bad guy with a dump truck is a good guy with a dump truck.

PAREDES: No, I'm not going to make that case. But here in America, with the tradition that we have and the laws and the Constitution we have, every lawful citizen has a preexisting right to defend themselves with whatever type of firearm they deem necessary to do that - in their country, in their state, in their community, in their homes and their businesses and their travels. That is what the Supreme Court said. So that has got to be the baseline. That cannot change unless somebody wants to change the Constitution. So let's start from there.

KELLY: Sam Paredes - he is the executive director of the Gun Owners of California. Sam Paredes, thank you.

PAREDES: It was my pleasure. And thank you for the sincere conversation. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.