By: José Niño
Since the landmark D.C. v. Heller and Chicago v. McDonald decisions, the Supreme Court has been relatively silent on the Second Amendment.
But all eyes will soon be on New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. City of New York. This case already had oral hearings from the Court on December 2, 2019. The final decision will probably not take place until later in 2020. The entire controversy emerged in 2013 when the N.Y. Rifle and Pistol Association Inc. and various private gun owners filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern district of New York after learning from New York City Police that they could not take their legally owned guns in the city out to their homes outside of the city or to shooting competitions in New Jersey.
The plaintiffs made the case that New York City’s ordinance was a violation of their Second Amendment rights as established by Heller, the Commerce Clause, and the freedom to travel. The District Court did not agree with the plaintiffs, upholding New York City’s ordinance. The plaintiffs then appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 2015. The Second Circuit confirmed the District Court’s ruling in 2018, arguing that Heller and McDonald only affirmed the right to own guns in defense of a person’s home, not for transportation or the use outside of the home.
After these disappointing results, the plaintiffs petitioned for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court, disputing the Second Circuit’s decisions and questioning if the gun transport restriction infringed on their Second Amendment rights, their Dormant Commerce Clause rights, and their right to travel. The Supreme Court eventually granted the petition on January 22, 2019.
New York City features some of the strictest gun control laws in the country. Under previous law, licensed handgun owners were barred from transporting their handguns outside of city limits. Simply bringing a handgun to a shooting range in a neighboring town would have made a licensed handgun owner a criminal.
New York City changed its gun order in a last-minute attempt to avoid an appellate review after the Court agreed to take up the case in 2019; however, the Court did not render the case moot, meaning there is still a dispute between the two parties that the court can still decide on. The Court’s decision to proceed with the case concerns gun control activists because they believe the Court could use the case to expand gun rights.
One of the strong points of Donald Trump’s presidency has been his Supreme Court picks that have generally been conservative. This is one case where gun owners could catch a big break from a conservative court.
For New York, this case will be crucial. New York is currently ranked in last place (51st) according to Guns & Ammo magazine for gun rights. The state government has clearly been derelict in protecting its citizens’ Second Amendment rights, so it will likely take federal action to rectify this situation. Despite New York City’s desperate change to its gun law, the Court can still take advantage of this decision to strengthen gun rights. When the gun control Left is constantly gaining ground, it makes sense to find opportunities where gun owners can score big.
This is one of them.
José Niño is a Venezuelan-American political activist writing from Fort Collins, Colorado. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.