Story by Brandon Council
In New York City, it is difficult for most citizens to own a handgun. Most individuals only qualify for a premises license. According to New York City’s government website, the person indicated on the premises license is permitted to have the handgun at the address on the license. It can also be transported to and from approved local ranges and hunting locations with no stops; directly to and from the location. The unloaded firearm and ammunition are to be kept in different containers and must be locked. Under no circumstances are you allowed to remove the firearm from the city. Three citizens, along with the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association sued the City of New York, where they lost their case in Federal District Court in Manhattan and in the United States Court of Appeals. Subsequently, the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association appealed to the United States Supreme Court. Tuesday, January 22nd the court granted a hearing and will review the decisions made by the lower courts.
The Supreme Court hasn’t heard a major case involving the Second Amendment in about ten years; the last being District of Columbia v Heller. A few residents of District of Columbia filed suit to determine whether a law in the city was constitutional. According to court documents, the law prohibited license of handguns and made possession of an unlicensed firearm illegal. Furthermore, it required licensed firearms to be disassembled or have a trigger lock installed in the home. The lawsuit was first heard in District Court, where they determined that the law was constitutional. An appeal was then made to the U.S. Court of Appeals. Heller won the appeal when the court reversed the District Court decision. District of Columbia then appealed the dissent to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court granted review and held the U.S. Court of Appeals dissent of the District Court. The text of the Supreme Court opinion states, the Second Amendment ensures the individual right to own firearms for lawful purposes without service in a militia. The opinion also notes that the District of Columbia law specifically violates the Second Amendment. This critical decision started a wave of lawsuits in lower federal courts challenging the validity of many gun laws. Varying laws across the country have been rescinded because of this opinion.
The Supreme Court granting this appeal could prove to be huge. At the very least they could find the law in New York City is unconstitutional, and New Yorkers could have some of their rights restored. If history repeats itself, the hopeful decision on New York Rifle and Pistol Association v New York City will initiate a whole new wave of lawsuits challenging gun laws in the lower Federal Courts. With the confirmation of pro-Second Amendment Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, the probability of the Supreme Court accepting to hear further gun related cases is promising.
Arguments will begin in October, according to the Supreme Court website. This means a ruling will likely come in 2020. Hopefully this will be the beginning of a new era for the Second Amendment where it will be treated as a constitutional right again rather than a second-rate privilege, at least for New Yorkers. Now is the time for unconstitutional laws to be contested in our legal system. If only we could get our elected representatives to actually represent us and seize the attack on our rights…