High Court Gun Case: Major Issue or Moot Point?

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Semi-automatics for sale at a British gun show. Photo by Ashley Butte via Flickr

On Monday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on a major gun rights case for the first time in almost a decade. The case was brought in 2013 by the New York Pistol and Rifle Association, an advocacy group, against New York City.

The association argues that a New York City restriction that prevented licensed gun owners from taking their firearms outside the city violated the Second Amendment.

After the Supreme Court agreed in January to take the case, New York City repealed the relevant restriction, hoping that the high court would drop the case. It hasn’t, and could still issue a ruling with broad Second Amendment implications, The Trace reports.

The Supreme Court has been virtually silent on gun rights since it established that the Second Amendment includes the right to bear arms in the home in District of Columbia v. Heller, a watershed decision from 2008.

Its inertia has frustrated pro-gun advocates who want clarification on questions left unanswered in Heller, such as whether the Second Amendment protects the right to carry guns outside the home and what kinds of firearms are covered by the right to bear arms. Since Heller, the court has shifted further to the right, but this doesn’t mean the petitioners will win.

That’s partly because the gun restriction that prompted the suit is no longer law, which could render the entire case moot. Joseph Blocher, who co-directs the Center for Firearms Law at the Duke University School of Law, says the New York association “has already won this case, because New York City repealed its transport ban. The association has gotten everything it has asked for, and that’s precisely why … the court should dismiss this case as moot, no matter what the justices think about the Second Amendment.”

Additional reading: New York State Pistol Association v City of New York

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