Supreme Court to hear first gun rights case in a decade

October 8, 2019

The Supreme Court will hear an important Second Amendment case this term, despite calls from Senate Democrats and New York City to dismiss it.

New York City sought to have the case thrown out after modifying its disputed handgun regulations to be less restrictive. But the Supreme Court said that the case will receive further consideration from the high court before ruling on whether it’s “moot.”

SCOTUS to hear gun rights case

The Supreme Court announced that oral arguments in the case will be heard on December 2. It’s the first major Second Amendment case in almost ten years, and the first to deal with guns outside the home.

“The Respondents’ Suggestion of Mootness is denied,” the Court wrote in its order list. “The question of mootness will be subject to further consideration at oral argument, and the parties should be prepared to discuss it.”

The case deals with now-revised handgun regulations, which prohibited New York City handgun owners with premises-only licenses from transporting their firearms outside city limits. Three New York City handgun owners and the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association challenged the rules, which limited handgun owners to keeping their firearms at home or transporting them to one of seven shooting ranges located within the city.

When the Supreme Court took up the case in January, New York City changed the laws to be less prohibitive, allowing gun owners to transport them to second homes or shooting ranges outside city limits, and asked the Supreme Court to dismiss it, saying that the plaintiffs had been given everything they wanted. But the plaintiffs maintained that New York City was still infringing on the Second Amendment and, basically, had thrown gun owners a bone by making marginal curtailments to gun regulations.

“The City’s begrudging revisions to its restrictive transport ban reflect the City’s unwavering view that the ability to transport a licensed handgun is a matter of government-conferred privilege, rather than a constitutional right,” plaintiffs wrote in a filing with the Court.

Leftist effort to head off gun ruling fails

The about-face by New York City was an apparent effort to head off a potentially favorable ruling for gun rights, as explained by the Washington Free Beacon. Gun control groups supported the revision, warning that New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. City of New York could deal a blow to gun regulations.

“A ruling in NYSRPA vs. NYC could overturn not only the city’s gun transport reg, but also ‘may-issue’ laws governing concealed carry of firearms in public in New York and seven other states,” Ladd Everitt, director of the gun control group One Pulse for America, wrote in the New York Daily News. “The NRA spent $1 million to get Kavanaugh confirmed to the Supreme Court because they believe he will provide the decisive fifth vote to eliminate such discretion by declaring a new, individual right to carry guns in public.”

The city’s reversal was a rather transparent political ploy. In its initial response, the city said that it was “not a fundamental right” for gun owners to transport their handguns to homes or shooting ranges outside city limits — only to later “grant” that right by law.

Senate Democrats, joining New York City’s effort to short-circuit the case, filed an unusual, threatening amicus brief demanding that the Supreme Court “heal itself” and dismiss the case, or else face restructuring from the Democrats’ court-packing schemes. Republicans responded with a missive encouraging the SCOTUS not to be intimidated by political pressure from the left.

Democrats have floated court-packing after President Donald Trump confirmed Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, solidifying a slim conservative majority. The Supreme Court heard cases on LGBT rights on Tuesday in a preview of the kind of high-profile cases on this term’s docket.

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Matthew Boose

Matthew Boose is a staff writer for Conservative Institute. He has a Bachelor's degree from Stony Brook University and has contributed to The Daily Caller and The Stony Brook Press.