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Justices Send Assault Weapon, Magazine Bans Back to Lower Courts

June 30, 2022, 2:55 PM

Several challenges to state gun laws were sent back to lower courts in light of the US Supreme Court’s landmark Second Amendment ruling limiting restrictions on firearm possession outside the home.

Known as a “GVR"—for grant, vacate, and remand—the justices often allow lower courts another shot at cases after a high court decision that could potentially change the analysis or outcome of a case.

The cases sent back Thursday include challenges to bans in New Jersey and California on high-capacity magazines that hold ten rounds or more, Maryland’s assault weapons ban, and Hawaii’s restrictions on open-carry.

In each case, the lower courts had upheld the restrictions.

The justices didn’t explain why they sent the cases back, but presumably it was to apply the new test laid out by Justice Clarence Thomas’s majority opinion in New York State & Pistol Association v. Bruen. The ruling was the Supreme Court’s first major Second Amendment case in over a decade and limited the restrictions that states can place on where gun owners can take their firearms.

Courts should look only to the constitutional text and that nation’s history of gun restrictions in determining whether a state has run afoul of the Second Amendment, Thomas wrote, adding that they should not defer to legislative determinations about whether gun restrictions are necessary for public health and safety.

“While that judicial deference to legislative interest balancing is understandable—and, elsewhere, appropriate—it is not deference that the Constitution demands here,” Thomas said.

The new test will make it harder for courts to uphold the restrictions.

The cases are Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, Inc. v. Bruck, U.S., No. 20-1507, Young v. Hawaii, U.S., No. 20-1639, Bianchi v. Frosh, U.S., No. 21-902, and Duncan v. Bonta, U.S., No. 21-1194.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson in Washington at krobinson@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com