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Supreme Court to hear appeal over former NYPD rule that barred gun owners from transporting firearms out of the city

The Supreme Court of the United States in Washington, D.C., on September 25, 2018. Supreme Court will hear case involving convicted DC area sniper.(Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

The law in question is gone — but the appeal goes on in the case of a New York City rule that kept gun owners from transporting their weapons unless they were headed to city-licensed gun ranges or out of town at hunting season.

Oral arguments are scheduled Monday in the first major gun case taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court in more than a decade.

Gun owners say the city’s rule violated their Second Amendment right to bear firearms. Gun control advocates say the city was within its rights to regulate transport of the deadly weapons.

Coloring both sides’ view of the case is the court’s new conservative majority, bolstered by President Trump’s appointment of justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch. Gun control advocates fear what gun owners hope for from the case: a ruling that will make gun regulations like New York’s harder to enact.

The case started because three city gun owners — Romolo Colantone of Staten Island and Efrain Alvarez and Jose A. Irizarry of the Bronx — wanted to compete in shooting contests outside the city.

They sought the advice of the NYPD’s license division, and were told that under city rules, “the only permissible ranges for target practice or competitive shooting matches … are those located in New York City.”

That meant Colantone, Alvarez and Irizarry couldn’t attend shooting competitions in New Jersey or Connecticut.

Besides being barred from competition, Colantone complained in court papers that his rights were infringed because the NYPD rule barred him from taking his handgun to his family’s second home in upstate Hancock, a town in the Catskills.

Alvarez, a 64-year-old retired bus driver, says he supports says he supports background checks for gun buyers and red flag laws, which let cops seize firearms from people deemed to pose a danger to themselves or others. Such a law took effect in New York in August.

He just believes the city law limiting where he can take his gun was unfair. “All I was looking to do was [to overturn] that regulation that you can not take your gun out of the city,” Alvarez said.

The repeal of the rule isn’t much help to him right now: Alvarez — whose Facebook posts include pictures of guns, shooting range sessions and a video of people dressed as forest animals sexually assaulting a hunter, can’t own a handgun at the moment. His pistol permit was seized by police last year in what he calls a mix-up involving his daughter.

The NYPD repealed the travel restriction earlier this year. Then-Police Commissioner James O’Neill said the repeal “strikes a responsible balance between individual interests and public safety.”

Because the rule is gone, the city says the Supreme Court case is moot.

“The Supreme Court should not step in to deprive us of our rights to live safely and to enact laws to protect ourselves from gun violence,” leaders from top gun control groups, including the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Brady and Everytown for Gun Safety, wrote to supporters in November.

“And the Supreme Court certainly shouldn’t go out of its way to do it by ruling on a case even after the plaintiffs got everything they said they wanted — and more,” the gun groups said.

The New York State Rifle and Pistol Association — the state’s official National Rifle Association affiliate — says more is at stake in the case, which it filed in 2013.

Tom King, ans group’s executive director, is an NRA board member and a backer of its chief executive, Wayne LaPierre, who is accused of misspending members’ money.

The Association’s own flow of money from member dues has dried up in recent years, and a political action committee run by the group has failed to file required state campaign finance reports since 2017, according to records reviewed by the Daily News. King did not respond to requests for comment.

Despite its woes, the state rifle association is all in on the Supreme Court case. One of its lawyers, Paul Clement, argues that despite the repeal, the city has an “unwavering view that the ability to transport a licensed handgun is a matter of government-conferred privilege, rather than a constitutional right.”

Solicitor General Noel Francisco — who argues on behalf of the Trump administration to the Supreme Court — said in August that the government has a “substantial interest in the preservation of the right of the people to keep and bear arms.”


© 2019 New York Daily News