On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a challenge by gun rights advocates against a New York law restricting law-abiding gun permit holders, limiting their Second Amendment rights to a handful of shooting ranges within the city.
It’s been nearly a decade since the high court has weighed in on a gun rights case. Gun control zealots had hoped the Supreme Court would have dropped hearing the scheduled Second Amendment case, after gun control groups fearing a ruling against them attempted to modify the egregious state law that prohibits licensed gun owners from carrying their licensed, locked and unloaded handgun outside the city limits, either to a shooting range or a second home.
The lower courts upheld the restrictive regulations, making near impossible for “licensed gun owners” to transport their weapons under “any condition” outside the city limits, for fear of having their permits revoked or worst yet arrested for transporting a firearm.
However, when the Supreme Court in January singled that they would hear the case, New York City gun control advocates began to panic, knowing that two new conservative justices appointed by the President, would also be hearing the dispute involving a fundamental Second Amendment issue.
New York City hoping to circumvent the high court, quickly capitulated, modifying it’s restrictions against law-abiding gun owners, declaring in a statement that New York City has given those who hold licenses exactly what they asked for, a greater ability to transport their weapons through and outside the city, adding there’s no longer a controversy for the Supreme Court to settle.
Zachary W. Carter, corporation counsel for New York City, wrote, “New legislation or regulations giving plaintiffs all they seek moots the case.”
Carter noted that Chief Justice John Roberts Jr.’s dissenting opinion on a mootness question in an unrelated case in 2016, in which he said the court may not rule on a plaintiff’s entitlement to relief simply because he “won’t take ‘yes’ for an answer.’ ”
However, Second Amendment advocates are heartened that the high court will nevertheless hear the case, regardless of what New York City attempts to do.
Those who brought the challenge said the city should not be allowed to get rid of the case and the constitutional questions it raises by making a last-minute change after years of resistance.
Experts are predicting that any Supreme Court decision on guns will be magnified in a presidential election year and with the backdrop of the mass shootings that have already plagued the country.
Adam Winkler, a UCLA law professor who has written extensively about Second Amendment litigation says, “They’re human beings and this can’t help but color a little bit how they see this case.”
On how to decide when a case is moot, he said, “I think the Supreme Court has enough wiggle room to go in either direction.”
Moreover, this anticipated decision by the high court is significant, in that the restrictions New York City placed on licensed gun owners were unique, in that no other jurisdiction has such strict rules on transporting a weapon.
This case marks the accepted challenge since the Supreme Court recognized an individual right to gun ownership in 2008’s District of Columbia v. Heller and ruled two years later that the Second Amendment governed state and local gun laws as well as those adopted by the federal government.
New York officials said the gun owners should simply acknowledge that they won.
“A primary purpose of litigation like this is to pressure the governmental actors to agree to a demand,” the city wrote. “All that matters is whether the plaintiffs’ purported injuries have been redressed if so, there is no longer a case or controversy.”