I have written several previous columns in the River Hills Traveler regarding the case pending in the U.S. Supreme Court entitled “New York State Rifle and Pistol Association vs New York City.”
My reason for writing about this subject is that most folks who read this publication are outdoor people and many probably have an interest in guns and their Second Amendment rights.
The New York State Rifle and Pistol Association case has been significant in that regard for two reasons: it was the first case involving the Second Amendment that the U.S. Supreme Court has been willing to hear in ten years and it was the first case that the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear in which the issue was whether rights under the Second Amendment extend beyond the home.
The New York State Rifle and Pistol case, while it was pending before the Supreme Court, generated a lot of controversy between gun owners and non-gun owners.
This controversy even reached the point that five U.S. Senators filed a brief with the Court essentially advising the Justices of the Supreme Court that if they proceeded to rule on the merits of the case, and thereby extended Second Amendment rights beyond merely keeping a gun at home, the Senate might have to retaliate by adding additional members to the court, imposing term limits, or taking some other punitive action to teach them a lesson.
It is unknown whether the Senators’ threat influenced the Justices, but in any event, on April 27, 2020, the Supreme Court finally ruled on the case.
As some legal experts predicted, they decided to “duck” the issue and declare that the controversy was officially “moot” and not an appropriate case to decide on its merits.
The case was deemed to be moot because during the pendency of the case in the Supreme Court, both the City of New York and the New York state legislature passed legislation purporting to cure the legal problems that formed the basis for the suit.
Whether the case was truly “moot” is debatable; maybe the Justices simply did not want to be the ones responsible for allowing millions of people to legally carry handguns for the first time in New York City, a place where it is cool to be confrontational.
Surprisingly, Justice Kavanaugh agreed with the majority that the case was moot but in his concurring opinion, he noted that sooner or later, the Supreme Court needed to decide the issue — whether the Second Amendment extends beyond keeping a gun in one’s home.
At the time Justice Kavanaugh wrote his concurring opinion, there were ten gun cases pending for possible consideration by the Court; five of these cases specifically involved the issue whether Second Amendment rights extend beyond the home.
Unlike the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association case, some of these cases had facts that created meaningful controversies.
For example, in the case of Rogers vs. Grewal, the State of New Jersey prohibited gun owners from carrying handguns in public without a special permit and that permit was not available unless the job of the applicant directly required that they be armed, such as might be required if they were employed as a security guard.