Supreme Court Showdown: November 3

Arguments Challenge New York Gun Control Law
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Finally, more than 11 years after the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a landmark ruling in McDonald v. City of Chicago incorporating the Second Amendment to the states via the 14th Amendment, the much-changed high court will consider another potentially explosive gun rights case on Wednesday, Nov. 3.

The Roberts Court, April 23, 2021 Seated from left to right: Justices Samuel A. Alito, Jr. and Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor Standing from left to right: Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh, Elena Kagan, Neil M. Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett. Photograph by Fred Schilling, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

The case is known as New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen. (It is also known by its original title, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Corlett.)

It’s not certain yet whether this will be an in-person session or conducted remotely, but one thing is clear. There is a lot at stake for the State of New York, neighboring New Jersey, Maryland, California and other states (there are four more) that require evidence of “good cause” before granting a concealed carry permit.

If the court rules in favor of the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association (NYSRPA), it could disrupt regulation of carry permits in those states and infuriate thousands.

Pete Williams at NBC boiled it down to the basics. In the 2008 Heller ruling the Supreme Court said that the right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental individual right not dependent upon service in a militia. The court majority said handguns are protected by the amendment, and that people had a right to have guns in their homes.

The question remains, will the court affirm this right extends beyond the confines of one’s home? A right limited to the inside of a residence is no right at all, but instead a government-regulated privilege.

It’s time for the court to clarify this right and expand its parameters. The issue the high court will consider is straightforward: “Whether the State’s denial of petitioners’ applications for concealed-carry licenses for self-defense violated the Second Amendment.”

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NYSRPA Shows Grit

With support from the National Rifle Association, NYSRPA has pushed New York into a corner.

A couple of years ago, the high court agreed to hear the NYSRPA challenge of a city ordinance that forbade handgun owners to take their legally-owned sidearms out of the city for any reason. The court’s acceptance of the case for review so terrified city officials they scrambled to change the ordinance.

Perhaps the reason New York City scrambled to change its ordinance is because the city knew all along the restriction was unconstitutional, but didn’t want a sweeping court ruling to cement that.

Nobody in the gun prohibition movement wanted that case heard by the Supreme Court. Nobody in the anti-gun camp really wants the current case heard either.

As noted by author and Second Amendment historian Stephen Halbrook in The Hill, “In NYSRPA v. Corlett, Second Amendment opponents fear the court might expound on the standard of review in Second Amendment cases, instead of the seeming rubber-stamp approach of lower courts upholding most useless firearms restrictions that primarily impact law-abiding persons. The ruling could also confirm that the right to bear arms extends outside of the home, which should be a no-brainer. The other freedoms in the Bill of Rights — speech, religion, etc. — do not end at a citizen’s front door, nor should the Second Amendment.”

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Lots of Amicus Briefs

There have been more amicus (“friend of the court”) briefs filed by interest groups on both sides of the issue than I can remember with any other gun rights case.

One brief was signed by a few dozen members of Congress. Another was filed by several Republicans in the U.S. Senate. There is one from several attorneys general and another from a coalition of gun rights group. An organization called Professors of Second Amendment Law filed a brief, as did the National African American Gun Association.

The Second Amendment Foundation filed one in cooperation with state groups in Louisiana, Ohio, Connecticut, Virginia, Tennessee, New Jersey, Florida, North Carolina and Illinois. Indeed, every gun rights group on the landscape appears to have filed a brief, and there is some pretty interesting reading to be found in those documents.

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Don't Expect a Miracle

Nobody should expect a unanimous “miracle ruling” that strikes down the permit/license systems in the states, nor should anyone anticipate a majority ruling that says the only permit you need is the Second Amendment.

However, a ruling that nullifies this “good cause” requirement will be a major step forward. U.S. citizens shouldn’t need permission from some bureaucrat to exercise a fundamental right. It should not cost a small fortune in time and money to obtain such a permit. It’s likely the ruling will not be released until the final day of the court’s 2021 session, so we’ll have to wait until next June.

Good Ruling Won't Protect Idiots

Just to keep things in perspective, a favorable ruling by the Supreme Court will not legalize being stupid in public. This brings us to the case of a convicted Georgia felon who appeared on social media “flashing a gun” and threatening to shoot a judge, as reported by Fox News.

The story said this man spent 24 minutes live-streaming his plans to plug the Superior Court judge who turned down his request to end his probation.

Gwinnet County Sheriff’s deputies put the man in handcuffs for also allegedly having threatened to kill peace officers and “others employed by the criminal justice system.”

Fox detailed that the man now faces charges of possession of firearms by a convicted felon, making terrorist threats and “conducting criminal gang activity.” Is there such a thing in Georgia as honest gang activity?

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