Supreme Court Hears First Gun Case In About a Decade

Alex Skelley

For the first time in over a decade, when DC v. Heller was decided, the Supreme Court will be hearing a case dealing directly with the second amendment and gun rights. The case is a challenge to a New York City gun law that only allows New York handgun owners to take guns outside their homes to go to one of 7 specially designated shooting ranges in the city. This means if you want to carry it for self-defense, take it to another home upstate, use it for hunting, or compete in a shooting competition, you can’t.

The law is a being challenged as violating the second amendment, the commerce clause, and the right to travel. The plaintiff of the case is the New York State Pistol and Rifle Association. The case will be New York State Pistol and Rifle Association v. the City of New York. It’s being seen as first, a prohibition on the lawful use of firearms, and second, a law that forces you to give up one right to exercise another.

The case is the first monumental gun rights case since DC v. Heller in 2008, which ruled that there is an individual right to bear arms for lawful purposes. There are expected to be many gun rights cases in upcoming years to define lawful uses of firearms, what constitutes a prohibition, and what the parameters are for common use. Cases like the recent one can also be used to rule if there is a constitutional right to carry a firearm, instead of just keeping one at your house.

Since Heller, the supreme court has avoided taking on many gun rights cases, leaving the decision in Heller up to interpretation by the states and local governments. Justice Clarence Thomas has called the treatment of the second amendment like the treatment of a “cousin of the Constitution”, instead of a real unalienable right.

The effects of the case will depend on how narrowly the court rules. If they rule very narrow, and justices rule this law unconstitutional, then it won’t have massive effects, and New York City may just pass a new, similar law. If they rule very broadly however, it could have massive effects. They could infer something like a constitutional right to carry a firearm with you or to use a firearm for things like hunting and shooting competitions. This could nullify gun laws across the country.

In a nutshell, the ruling of the case, which is expected to be in a conservative direction, could have massive effects on expanding gun rights. No date is set for the hearing yet, but it will be interesting to watch when we get to the hearing. One thing is for sure: this will be a landmark case.