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Supreme Court Scraps Gun Case After New York Changes Law (2)

April 27, 2020, 4:08 PM

The U.S. Supreme Court dropped a clash over New York City handgun-transportation restrictions, saying the city had made the issues in the case moot by changing the law to give residents more freedom to travel with their weapons.

The 6-3 decision to scrap the case is at least a temporary setback for gun-rights advocates and President Donald Trump’s administration. They had urged the justices to use the case to bolster the Second Amendment.

In an unsigned opinion, the court said three New York City residents who filed the lawsuit along with a National Rifle Association affiliate received the “precise relief” they sought. The city and state changed the law after the Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal last year.

Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch dissented, saying the court should have ruled. “The court permits our docket to be manipulated in a way that should not be countenanced,” Alito wrote for the group.

A fourth justice, Brett Kavanaugh, suggested in a concurring opinion that the court might move quickly to add a new, more sweeping Second Amendment case to its calendar. Kavanaugh said lower courts “may not be properly applying” the Supreme Court’s gun-rights precedents.

“The court should address that issue soon, perhaps in one of the several Second Amendment cases with petitions for certiorari now pending before the court,” Kavanaugh wrote, using the formal name for appeals that seek Supreme Court review.

The court has held off acting on other gun-rights cases, including appeals asserting a constitutional right to carry a handgun outside the home, while the New York case was pending. Four of the nine justices must agree to take up a case and schedule arguments.

Shooting Ranges

Under the original New York law, people with a licensed handgun at home were allowed to take it to one of seven shooting ranges in the city, but almost nowhere else. Weapons needed to be locked and unloaded during travel, and ammunition had to be put in a separate container.

The residents had said the rules forced them to stop attending shooting competitions or taking a licensed handgun to a second home.

The new rules let people take a gun to a second home or shooting range outside the city.

Gun-rights advocates said even the revised regulations are problematic, forbidding a handgun owner from stopping on the way out of town, requiring written permission to take a weapon to a gunsmith, and precluding transport to a summer rental house.

The Dec. 2 argument in the case was the court’s first in almost a decade on the reach of the Second Amendment.

The city’s supporters included Everytown for Gun Safety, an advocacy group started by Michael Bloomberg, who is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News. Bloomberg was mayor of New York from 2002 through 2013.

The case is New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. New York, 18-280.

(Updates with Kavanaugh comments starting in fifth paragraph)

To contact the reporter on this story:
Greg Stohr in Washington at gstohr@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Joe Sobczyk at jsobczyk@bloomberg.net

Laurie Asséo, Elizabeth Wasserman

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.