Supreme Court to Rule on Firearm Transport
In what could be the most significant gun rights case since D.C. v. Heller, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear opening arguments to settle a question over public transport of firearms through gun-averse jurisdictions. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of New York City this could set a precedent for the transport of firearms across the country.
The case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. New York, may determine whether New York City’s previous ban on transporting a licensed, locked and unloaded handgun from a location within the City to a home or shooting range outside of the city limits was constitutionally allowed.
Many questions remain over whether the now-repealed NYC gun law — formerly one of the most stringent in the nation — was in-step with the Second Amendment, the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, and/or the general right of free movement afforded by the Constitution and subsequent High Court rulings.
New York City attorneys are attempting to disarm the Pistol Association’s case by contending that the issue is now moot. New, looser city regulations took effect July 21, and the New York state legislature weighed-in on the matter this year, city attorneys pointed out.
A victory for the petitioners (Supreme Court jargon for the plaintiffs) would chart a course for future regulations on the ability to carry firearms through and from jurisdictions that have strict gun laws on the books. The petitioners are all New York City residents who have licenses to keep guns at home and who wish to transport their guns to shooting ranges or competitions outside of the City. Their case sounded cut-and-dry considering that the city, and even the state of New York, loosened their regulations, but a federal district court ruled in favor of the City, and the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court upheld that ruling. With that setback, there was nowhere else for the association, which bills itself as the oldest gun owner’s advocacy group in the nation, to go but the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court has plenty of freedom of motion in this case. Heller left open questions of whether a gun may be kept at home for any purpose other than self-defense. In the landmark 2008 decision, the High Court opined that the Second Amendment does not only apply to the “militia,” but to individuals. 2010’s McDonald v. Chicago further affirmed individual gun rights.
What was left vague by Heller and McDonald, however, was whether local, state, and federal entities could fine-tune those individual rights.
“Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited,” the late Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the majority for Heller. “It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”
As an example of those limitations, felons are prevented from owning firearms and carrying anywhere but on restricted private property.
With Scalia now deceased, and notorious swing-vote Justice Anthony Kennedy has retired, it is unclear how new conservative successors Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh will fall on individual gun rights.
That the Supreme Court decided to take up this case at all is a statement that the questions raised by the New York association are not moot but still incredibly relevant for home-defenders and sportsmen alike. If the Court decides it is moot, then it will be after arguments are concluded.
We can expect a decision to be made in the days following the conclusion of arguments in December, but a written opinion on both the merits of the case and the decision itself may take months.
Andy Hogue is a longtime veteran of legislative politics and journalism. He makes frequent appearances on television and radio shows in the Austin area, his writing has appeared in numerous national and international media outlets. He has served as speechwriter for two state officials, publicity director for several projects at The Alamo, and was constituent services director for one of the last conservative Austin City Councilmen. For fun he likes to unload 13 rounds from his Browning Hi-Power.