Supreme Court takes up biggest gun rights case in a decade with review of New York City law stopping handgun owners from moving their weapons

Tuesday, January 22, 2019
By Paul Martin

Supreme Court with newly-installed conservative majority takes up a major gun rights case, its first since 2010
It will review New York City laws which stop handgun owners with ‘premises licenses’ transporting their firearms outside of the home
Three gun owners and New York state National Rifle Association affiliate claim it breaches Second Amendment and is ‘draconian’
Ruling could come as late as 2020 as nine justices set out some of the cases they will hear between October 2019 and June 2020

22 January 2019

The conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday took up its biggest gun rights case in a nearly decade, agreeing to hear a challenge backed by the influential National Rifle Association lobby group to New York City’s strict limits on handgun owners transporting their firearms outside of the home.

The nine justices will review a 2018 lower court ruling upholding the city’s restrictions after three gun owners and the NRA’s New York state affiliate sued claiming the regulations violated the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment right to ‘keep and bear arms.’

The case will be heard and decided in the court’s next term, which starts in October and ends in June 2020.

The decision indicates a new interest on the court, where conservatives hold a 5-4 margin, on guns and is the first major gun case to come before the justices since 2010.

The court’s conservative wing has been bolstered in the past two years by President Donald Trump’s appointment of two justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh last year replaced Justice Anthony Kennedy, a conservative who sometimes sided with the court’s liberals on high-profile social issues.

The Supreme Court has not taken up a major firearms case since issuing important gun rulings in 2008 and 2010 that established an individual right to own guns for self-defense.

The New York case concerned people who have licenses to have guns at home, known as ‘premises’ licenses, who are already allowed to take unloaded guns to shooting ranges within New York City.

The plaintiffs said the city’s rules forbidding them from taking their guns to ranges or other homes outside city limits amounted to a ‘draconian’ transport ban.

Premises licenses are different from ‘carry’ licenses, which give holders broader freedom to take guns outside the home and are not at issue in the case.

The gun owners and the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, an NRA affiliate, filed suit in 2013 challenging the transport limits in federal court in New York.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan last year rejected the constitutional challenge and said the restrictions advanced the city’s interest in protecting public safety.

The appeals court said the restrictions did not run afoul of the Supreme Court’s landmark 2008 ruling that found for the first time that the Second Amendment protected an individual’s right to gun ownership under federal law, specifically to keep a handgun at home for self-defense.

The high court, in another important ruling, in 2010 extended that right to state and local laws as well.

Since then, however, the justices had avoided taking up another major firearms case, despite gun rights proponents’ repeated attempts to extend those rights to other types of weapons and where they can be carried.

In recent years, the court has left in place assault-weapons bans in New York, Connecticut and Maryland, as well as laws over gun waiting periods and concealed carrying permits in California.

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