When the Supreme Court surprised us by granting certiorari in NY State Rifle & Pistol Association v. City of New York et al, those of us in the pro-rights community rejoiced. This would be the first major Second Amendment case involving firearms accepted for cert since McDonald v. Chicago. A number of states as well as a number of gun rights organizations filed amicus briefs urging the Court to accept the case. As issue in the case was a New York City law that forbid those with handgun licenses from traveling outside the city limits with their handguns. They were only allowed to transport their handgun to one of seven licensed ranges within the city.
It was felt that this case might be used to establish both the right to carry outside the home and to set the standard that should be used in Second Amendment cases. David Kopel said the case offered the opportunity to “to begin reining in lower court nullification of the Supreme Court’s precedents in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago.” Brian Doherty writing in Reason noted that the Second Circuit “believed that the constitutional right to keep and bear arms pretty much only counts in the home, and thus these transport laws do not harm its core purpose.” He went on to say the many American believe their right to self defense does not end when they step out the door of their home.
At the end of March I noted an op-ed by Ladd Everitt, Director of George Takai’s gun control organization One Pulse for America, which urged the City of New York and the NYPD to change the law forbidding transport. I postulated that the gun control lobby was getting a bit nervous by this case and wanted the city to do what it took to moot the case. While I don’t think Everitt’s op-ed would case the City of New York to reevaluate its law, I’m sure some heavy hitters among the gun prohibitionists getting on-board this bandwagon would.
Michael Bloomberg’s wholly funded mouthpiece, The Trace, ran a story on Monday on the case and by Friday the City of New York had filed a motion with the Supreme Court advising them that the NYPD was engaging in a proposed rulemaking that would moot the case.
From the city’s attorney:
The Court granted the petition for a
writ of certiorari in this case on January 22, 2019, and petitioners’ merits brief is
currently due on May 7, 2019.
I write to advise the Court of a proposed rulemaking. If adopted in
accordance with established procedures, the proposed rule would render this case
moot before the parties complete the merits briefing in this case. For this reason, I
also write to request that the Court stay the current briefing schedule pending final
action on the proposed rule.
The proposed rule would allow residents with a premises permit for their handgun to transport them, unloaded, in a locked container, with the ammo in a separate container to:
- Another premises of the licensee where the licensee is authorized to
have and possess a handgun;
- A small-arms range/shooting club authorized by law to operate as
such, whether located within or outside New York City; and
- A shooting competition at which the licensee may possess the handgun
consistent with the law applicable at the place of the competition.
The NRA-ILA released a statement calling the move, in essence, a sham.
“The City of New York clearly knows that its current restrictions on the carrying and transportation of lawfully owned firearms are unconstitutional and will fail under any standard of constitutional review, as the NRA has been saying for years. Today, it asked the U.S. Supreme Court to ignore the Constitution and allow the City to slow walk a narrow expansion of its current policy through a lengthy bureaucratic process — the result of which, even if adopted, would still unduly infringe upon the fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment. That is not how things work in the Supreme Court; the Court does not put its review on hold while the government embarks on a journey that at best might fix only a limited part of the constitutional defect. This is nothing more than a naked attempt by New York City to resist Supreme Court review of policies that even New York must recognize as inconsistent with the holdings in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago. The City of New York did not respect its citizens’ Second Amendment rights before the Supreme Court granted review in this case and it will not respect them going forward. We are confident that the Court will reject New York’s desperate attempt to avoid review of its blatantly unconstitutional laws.”
I’m not sure the NRA is correct in being confident that the Supreme Court will reject New York City’s request to hold off on briefing the case. Given the chance to avoid the issue, I think the Supreme Court as led by Chief Justice Roberts may do just that. They have had many other opportunities to take another Second Amendment case and have punted.