Supreme Court Considers Gun Regulation Case

Posted by on Dec 10, 2019 in Government, United States

Few topics can spark a debate faster than the issue of gun regulation. So you might think that several cases involving gun regulation must have been heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, right? Wrong. In fact, the Supreme Court has ruled decisively on the issue of guns only twice in modern times. But now, it’s possible that it could happen again. Here, btw takes a closer look at what’s happening.

Only Twice in Modern History

In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that the right to bear arms–as protected by the Second Amendment to the Constitution–is an individual right. In 2010, the Court ruled that this right applies to state laws as well as federal ones. But since then, it has refused to review any further cases involving gun safety regulation.

So Why Now?

The case currently under consideration comes out of New York. The New York City gun license law is one of the most restrictive in the country, and it’s being challenged by three citizens and the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association. Basically, the law states that handgun owners are allowed to have their pistol only in their own homes and at seven firing ranges within the city limits, but nowhere else. Proponents of the law argue that it’s necessary because of the high density of people who live, work, and visit in New York City: in fact, it’s the most densely populated city in the whole country. And for that reason, they say, extra-strict regulations are needed for safety purposes.

But the law’s challengers say that it’s so strict that it violates the Second Amendment. Gun owners in New York City can’t keep their handguns at a second home, or transport them to any shooting ranges or competitions in other states–even if they’re secured and unloaded.

An Unusual Case

The city and state of New York have stuck by their strict gun regulations–until now. Once the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, the law was suddenly changed. It now states that handgun owners can move their weapons to second homes or shooting ranges outside the city (as long as they’re locked and unladed). This is essentially everything the plaintiffs wanted to change with their lawsuit. And the city claims that it won’t later try to go back to its original regulations. But representatives of the city continue to defend the old regulations, insisting that they are necessary to preserve safety in such a crowded city.

The Court’s Position

In 2008, when the Court ruled that the right to bear arms is an individual right, the emphasis was on the right of people to own a gun for self-defense. In other words, it didn’t really cover the question of transporting one’s weapon around a city. The Court also insisted that their ruling didn’t affect the need to keep firearms out of places such as schools and government buildings, and that dangerous weapons would still be banned.

But the Court has shifted since then. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was more moderate, has been replaced by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who has a history of ruling in favor of expanding gun rights. With five conservative justices now serving on the Supreme Court–enough to tip the balance definitively against gun regulation–what happens with the New York case could potentially affect gun legislation and legal challenges to it for years to come.

What Do You Think? In your opinion, should New Yorkers be allowed to transport their weapons around the city? Or does the extremely high population of residents and tourists make the risk too high? Explain.