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Supreme Court to hear major NY gun case next week – a first in 10 years

A man shoots at the range. (Max Pixel/Released)
November 26, 2019

The United States Supreme Court is preparing to hear one of the first major gun cases in nearly a decade, the case of the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. City of New York, New York.

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The case follows the complaints of licensed gun owners, backed by the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, who have challenged a since-repealed ban on transporting their firearms. According to SCOTUSblog, the ban prevented gun owners with licenses to keep firearms in their homes from taking them to local shooting ranges and competitions or to residences outside New York City.

A federal district court initially ruled in favor of New York City’s travel restriction. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit also upheld the prior ruling of the district court. Now the case is set to appear before the Supreme Court for oral arguments on Dec. 2, SCOTUSblog reported.

The city and state of New York had, in fact, changed their laws to repeal the firearms transportation ban at the heart of the complaint. They, in turn, requested the 2nd Circuit Court’s decision be invalidated and the case rendered moot. Five Democratic U.S. Senators also filed a “friend of the court” brief advising the Supreme Court to disregard ruling on the merits of the case, under the concern the court may adopt a partisan appearance.

The gun advocates in the case pushed back and argued that problems remained even after the change of laws, and that gun owners traveling with their firearms could not stop to eat or fill their gas tanks with a firearm in tow. The Federal Government issued its own “friend of the court” brief backing the gun advocates challenging the repealed law.

In an October decision, the Supreme Court advised both parties that the case would move forward for Dec. 2 arguments, but both sides should be prepared to address whether the issue of the case had been overcome by irrelevance. If the justices find the case moot, they could render a decision relatively quickly. Meanwhile if the case is not moot and is to be considered on its merits, a more drawn out process may be in order.

The fact that the Supreme Court agreed to hear this latest gun case may have been a surprise as it’s the first major gun case to reach the nation’s highest court since District of Colombia v. Heller in 2008 and McDonald v. City of Chicago in 2010. The court’s District of Colombia v. Heller decision determined the Second Amendment to the Constitution preserves the right of an individual to keep a gun in their home for self-defense. The McDonald v. City of Chicago decision then determined that the Second Amendment does apply to the states.

In the years that have followed those two Second Amendment decisions, the Supreme Court has shown a reluctance to hear other firearms-related cases. One notable 2018 case saw the court refuse to weigh in on a California law instituting a 10-day waiting period for firearms purchases.