Supreme Court Keeps NYC Gun Case on Track

WASHINGTON (CN) – Setting up its first gun-rights case in nearly a decade, the Supreme Court turned down an effort Monday to jostle the schedule that would have the justices considering a New York City gun regulation this term.

The case is a challenge to a licensing rule that restricts where gun owners can take their guns in the city. Under New York state law and an accompanying city regulation, gun owners in New York City until recently could only have handguns in their homes or while on their way to one of seven gun ranges in the city.

The New York State Rifle and Pistol Association and a collection of gun owners have challenged the scheme as overly restrictive, saying it prevents gun owners from doing perfectly innocuous things with their firearms, including bringing them to a second home or a shooting range outside of the city, even if locked up and separated from ammunition.

They appealed to the Supreme Court after losing at the Second Circuit last year. While the justices undertook their summer hiatus, however, the city requested that the court take the case off its docket without argument because of intervening changes to the regulation and state law.

Directly addressing the issues the gun rights groups claimed in their lawsuit, the city in June made it so that gun owners can take their guns to a second home or a shooting range outside the city, among other places. Around the same time, New York state changed its gun laws to allow similar activity.

“Independently and together, the new statute and regulation give petitioners everything they have sought in this lawsuit,” the city wrote in its July request to have the case dismissed as moot.

The challengers were not satisfied with the changes, however, and told the justices the new regulations are still draconian enough to warrant review and that the city should not be able to dodge a court case by making a few tweaks to its laws before the case is decided.

“In short, the city continues to claim plenary authority over any transport outside the home and its revised rule is plainly designed to provide the bare minimum of what the city believes will suffice to moot this case, and not an inch more,” the gun owners said in a brief opposing the city’s request.

The justices denied the city’s request in a two-sentence order Monday, though they warned the city and the challengers in the case to be prepared to discuss the issue at oral arguments.

A spokesman for the New York City Law Department said the city looks “forward to addressing the issues at the December oral argument.” 

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