As the Nov. 3 showdown looms between supporters and opponents of the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association’s challenge of New York’s restrictive handgun carry license scheme, there is plenty of angst to go around, considering how high the stakes might be.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case next month, and already the Los Angeles Times appears to be lamenting in a not-so-subtle smack at the court’s alleged conservative majority with story leads like this: “The Supreme Court is set to expand gun rights and restrict abortion rights…”
Writing at Five Thirty-Eight, Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux declares, “Now, the justices are preparing to hear the court’s first major gun rights case since 2010 as well as a case on the future of abortion in the U.S. Both cases could result in decisions that are far more extreme than most Americans want.”
And Matt Ford reminds readers at The New Republic, “The ACLU’s official position on the Second Amendment is that it protects a collective right to self-defense and not an individual one, a stance it admits is at odds with current constitutional law.”
Last year when the Senate was considering the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacancy left by the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the media spotlight fell heavily on concerns over the future of Roe v. Wade, but lurking back in the tall grass were gun prohibitionists alarmed at the potential of another conservative tilting the Court far enough that it would consider another gun rights case.
When the court—prior to Barrett’s arrival—agreed to consider a challenge to New York City’s extremist restriction against transporting licensed handguns outside the city, Big Apple officials scrambled to change the law in an effort to moot the case. As one observer put it, the Court would not have taken up the case if it simply intended to uphold the law.
What the panic told many in the gun rights community was that city officials had known all along their regulation was unconstitutional. They just didn’t want to have the Supreme Court say so, establishing a precedent. However, that’s where the current NYSR&PA case is likely headed, anti-gunners fear.
Should the Court slam down hard on New York’s long-existing requirement for what is generically called “good cause” to obtain a carry license, similar schemes in other states including New Jersey, Maryland and California, would also be affected.
That’s because the 2010 ruling in McDonald v. City of Chicago incorporated the Second Amendment to the states via the 14th Amendment. Prior to that, the Second Amendment was a restriction on the federal government. Now it applies to the states.
Rights advocates such as Alan Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation, have wanted high court review Second Amendment cases in an effort to establish just what the amendment protects, how far it goes and what, if any, regulation might be allowed. Many Second Amendment activists insist “shall not be infringed” means exactly what it says. Gottlieb and SAF have a slogan: “Winning firearms freedom, one lawsuit at a time.”
The Los Angeles Times report matter-of-factly explained this case “asks the court to rule that the Constitution protects the right to carry a loaded handgun when leaving home.”
In 2008, the Court ruled in the Heller case that people have a right to keep a handgun in the home for protection. But a right limited only to the confines of one’s home is not a right at all, but a regulated privilege, say gun rights proponents.
A ruling in the case is not likely until late June, during the final days of the session. Traditionally, that is when the Court hands down its most controversial decisions.