The biggest gun control case in over a decade might end up on the desks of America's highest court -- and for once, gun control advocates don't want it to.
New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. City of New York
Last January, the Supreme Court announced it would take a case in New York City, one of the largest Second Amendment cases in the past 10 years. This is also the first case that might be heard since Justice Anthony Kennedy retired and the Court's seating dramatically shifted to a more conservative, potentially "gun-friendly" status.
The Court's current Justices have gun control advocates worried. So worried, in fact, that they're desperate to convince the Court to dismiss this case entirely.
Let's explain why:
New York Tried Stopping Travelers with Guns
New York offers two kinds of handgun licenses to residents. One license (a "Carry" license) allows state residents to carry a handgun for general use, like almost any other state. The other license (a problematic "Premises" license) is much less permissive. It allows handgun owners to "have and possess in his/her dwelling" a handgun. But this permit only allows gun owners to travel to seven pre-determined gun ranges in New York City to practice shooting. Handgun owners with a Premises permit cannot legally leave their homes with their weapons for any other reason.
That includes traveling outside of New York City. Yes, New York City's elected officials passed legislation that prevented gun owners from freely leaving their homes - and even the city itself - with their handguns. One could not legally leave the state with a handgun. Ever. If you owned a handgun and wanted to leave the city with it, you would've had to obtain a "hunting authorization" first.
Some might call that a pretty big restriction on the Second Amendment.
Some gun advocates decided to challenge the order. Frightened that the case would escalate and hit the Supreme Court (where it would most likely be struck down and more importantly, establish a Second Amendment-friendly legal precedent), the state acquiesced: City officials re-wrote the law to allow New York City residents to travel to and from gun ranges and second homes outside the city.
Only it may not be enough. The Court might hear the case anyway.
Anti-Gunners Back-Pedal (Hoping to Avoid Court)
Because the supposed legal controversy is now over, NYC officials and gun control advocates say there is no need for the case to be heard by the highest Court. The city asked the Court to dismiss the case as "moot", a case that is now irrelevant since the plaintiffs' demands were met. New York City is so desperate to dismiss the case that city officials rounded up a few anti-gun college professors to draft up legalese arguing why the court should not hear the case.
An excerpt from the argument against the case being heard by the Court reads:
"Amici are professors of law who focus their research, scholarship, and teaching on federal courts, federalism, and the role of the federal judiciary in our legal system. Amici do not all agree on the best understanding of the Second Amendment or the best regulatory policies for firearms. But each agrees that this case is moot under well-established Article III principles...
State law now grants petitioners all that they demanded in federal court. The claims in petitioners’ complaint are therefore moot. No federal court has authority to offer an opinion on constitutional law without a live case or controversy under Article III. An ongoing disagreement about law—even federal constitutional law—is insufficient on its own to sustain Article III power."
Unfortunately for anti-gunners, the Supreme Court has not appeared to yield. Tomorrow, October 1, the Justices are scheduled to discuss whether to dismiss the case. This revelation and the potential for the case to be heard - and an important 2A precedent to be set - is particularly worrying for anti-gunners, for one reason.
The Court could re-write how it interprets the Second Amendment
The late Justice John Paul Stevens offered a surprisingly blunt take on the psychology of the Supreme Court's internal rumblings on gun control. In 2008, the District of Columbia V. Heller case allowed the Supreme Court to decide, for the first time, that the Second Amendment guarantees the individual's right to keep and bear arms. The case was decided on a 5-4 split with Justice Kennedy siding with his fellow conservatives.
In the ruling, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that existing prohibitions against the possession of a firearm, including existing bans of "dangerous and unusual weapons", were still valid. Justice Stevens revealed that Justice Kennedy also asked for some important changes to be made to Scalia's original opinion, ensuring that the language in the case's decision "should not be taken to cast doubt on existing gun laws".
But Justice Kennedy is gone. A more gun-friendly conservative took his place.
That would be Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Kavanaugh May Upset Anti-Gunners in This Case
After D.C.'s case was decided, Justice Kavanaugh wrote that "both D.C.'s ban on semi-automatic rifles and its gun registration requirement are unconstitutional under Heller." Importantly - and damning for existing precedents that are set for the Second Amendment - Kavanaugh argued that nearly 10 years' worth of Second Amendment jurisprudence should be thrown out and made new. He said one of the Constitution's most important rights may need to be reinterpreted more appropriately, for the individual's sake.
Building on Kavanaugh's opinion in Heller, that case did something else that anti-gunners aren't happy about: It wiped out the Court's prior interpretations that the Second Amendment mostly existed to ensure a "well-regulated militia be maintained for the free state". Instead, the new jurisprudence now rests on the individual's right to keep and bear arms. Except the Supreme Court has heard no cases which flesh out this new precedent or ideology since ruling on Heller.
The New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. City of New York, if heard by the Court, is about to change all that.
Justice Kavanaugh is likely to see this case as the first test against (or opportunity to affirm) the individual's right to bear arms. Given his prior written opinions on Heller, the odds the Court will rule in favor of New York City's gun control advocates are slim.
Signs of Federal Gun Ban Battle Heating Up
With the nation barreling toward the 2020 election amid so much gun culture talk, it's little surprise many agencies, state officials, and left-leaning activists are working to get numerous assault weapon and gun bans on ballots and into state chambers. Florida gun control advocates are trying to meet a February deadline to get an assault weapon ban on the state ballot.
In a House Judiciary Committee hearing last week, Democrats called for outright banning most, if not all, weapons. One legislator stated, "I believe that any weapon that can be used to hunt individuals should be banned." Like we reported on a few days ago, New York attempted to push its own version of a ban without any due process. Attorney General Letitia James sent cease-and-desist orders to 16 websites - including 80-Lower.com - demanding they stop selling 80% lowers and AR-15 kits.
These kits include a receiver blank (an unfinished firearm) that the user must complete at home. This is a legal practice long established by the ATF and Gun Control Act of 1968. Nevertheless, New York is now in the fight against the black rifle once again, and companies are working to scrutinize the legal standing of the demands. All signs point to the high possibility the Supreme Court will hear quite a few more gun control cases within the next two to four years.