Seeking the Truth in politics, economics, history, and religion...
Monday, April 27, 2020
Supreme Court Gives Incomplete Victory To NY Gun Owners
The Supreme Court declined to intervene in a case involving a lawsuit against New York City challenging a law that restricted where gun owners could take their weapons. New York amended the law last year leading the Court to decide that the issue was moot in a two-page unsigned opinion.
Under the original rule, gun owners were limited to transporting their guns to their home, their business, or one of seven shooting ranges that were outside of city limits per USA Today. Gun owners challenged the rule in federal court where it was upheld by the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 2018, prompting the Supreme Court to hear the case. However, in June 2019, the city changed to the rules in what The New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, the petitioner, called a “nakedly transparent effort to evade this court’s review.”
In the decision, the Supreme Court noted, “After we granted certiorari, the State of New York amended its firearm licensing statute, and the City amended the rule so that petitioners may now transport firearms to a second home or shooting range outside of the city, which is the precise relief that petitioners requested in the prayer for relief in their complaint. Petitioners’ claim for declaratory and injunctive relief with respect to the City’s old rule is therefore moot.”
Responding to claims that the city might arbitrarily change the rule again after the case is dismissed, the Court followed the procedure of vacating the lower court’s judgment and remanding the case back for further proceedings, if necessary. In other words, if New York returns to its old tricks, gun owners can pick up where they left off.
Justices Alito, Gorsuch, and Thomas joined in a dissent which argued that the Court should have rendered a decision on the case because New York only withdrew the regulation when it became apparent that the city would lose the case on the merits. The dissent also noted that, if the city had violated the Second Amendment rights of the petitioners, that they were entitled to damages and payment of legal fees.
The dissent fires a warning shot at the city when it references the Heller decision, calling the city’s violation of the Second Amendment “not a close question.”
In its entirety, the case is a victory for gun owners but an incomplete one. The petitioners achieved their aims of having the onerous restrictions removed, but failed to win damages and repayment of fees.
New York’s retreat indicates that the city knew that pursuing the case further would result in an embarrassing loss and another landmark gun rights case. While gun owners did not get that landmark ruling today, the Court has indicated to jurisdictions everywhere that Heller is now settled law.