NYC attempts to preemptively change gun control law to avoid SCOTUS defeat

The state of New York generally, and New York City in particular, are already known for having rather strict gun control laws, and now that one of the more onerous regulations is on the verge of being challenged in the nation’s highest court, the metropolis is attempting to sidestep what it anticipates will be an unfavorable ruling.

The United States Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on the case in the fall, but New York City has made a preemptive effort to change the regulation at issue and render the case moot in the hope of avoiding a potentially significant blow to the cause of gun control.

Controversial regulation faces SCOTUS scrutiny

The New York Times reported that the regulation in question is one that allows certain residents with special “premises licenses” to transport their firearms to one of only seven shooting ranges in the city. However, the regulation prohibits those same license holders from transporting their firearms to a second home or shooting range outside of the city, even if the firearms are unloaded and locked in a secure container.

That regulation has been challenged by three city residents and the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, and following predictable losses in the lower courts, the parties have appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed in January to hear the case later this year.

Given the recent additions of pro-Second Amendment justices such as Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh and the creation of a 5-4 conservative majority on the high court, New York City predicted that it would likely lose the case, an outcome which could place in jeopardy a host of other gun control regulations in jurisdictions across the nation.

Thus, the city has taken steps to try and change the regulation before the case be heard, ostensibly to render the case moot and prompt a dismissal from the Supreme Court, sparing other gun control laws from a potentially pivotal precedent.

Questionable legal maneuvers

This overarching effort included a public hearing and an opportunity for public comments — both spoken and written — on the proposed regulatory changes, and gun rights advocates certainly made their voices heard.

Typical of the comments received was one from an individual named Hallet Bruestle, who wrote: “This law should not be changed. Not because it is a good law; it is blatantly unconstitutional. No, it should not be changed since this is a clear tactic to try to moot the Scotus case that is specifically looking into this law.”

Another typical comment came from a resident named David Enlow, who wrote, “This is a very transparent attempt to move the goal post in the recent Supreme Court case.”

Far-reaching implications

Should the court eventually hear the case, it will have to determine whether the regulation is a violation of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms — which would allow for the safe transport of a firearm from one location to another — or whether the strict regulation was necessary as a “public-safety interest,” as the city has claimed.

The city already lost an initial battle in front of the court when a request in April to suspend the case while the regulation was changed was rejected. The plaintiffs in the case are set on proceeding and have characterized the city’s efforts as nothing more than a cynical ploy to avoid a disheartening — and potentially far-reaching — loss for gun control advocates.

It remains to be seen if the court decides to proceed with hearing the case or dismisses it, as the underlying regulation will likely no longer be on the books by that time.

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