It's SCOTUS season!

From now until the end of June, the US Supreme Court will be releasing its decisions. And from abortion to the existence of the CFPB to Trump's tax returns, there are some big cases this year. This week, it was guns.

This week, the Court issued a non-decision decision in gun control case New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. City of New York. We'll explain what that means in a hot second, but for now, know this: A non-decision decision in this case is probably the best thing we could have hoped for! Unfortunately, it's not all good news.

In a 6-3 per curiam (unsigned) opinion, the Court ruled that the case was moot (no longer a live dispute) because NYC changed the law last year.

Not to be outdone, however, four of the Court's five conservative justices signed on to a dissent arguing that the law in question was unconstitutional, indicating that they are likely to revisit their gun control jurisprudence in the near future. So cross your fingers, throw salt over your shoulder, go outside, turn around, and spit, because we're going to need a little luck if we're ever going to get a handle on this country's out-of-control gun deaths and mass shootings.


Here's what happened

We told you about this case when SCOTUS held oral arguments in December. In a nutshell, New York City enacted a law essentially making it illegal for people to move guns between locations within the city. The New York State Rifle and Pistol Association (NYSRPA) filed a federal lawsuit, arguing the law infringed upon their Second Amendment rights.

Before oral arguments could be held at the Supreme Court, NYC amended its law. The new law allows gun owners to safely transport their guns, which the court noted "is the precise relief that petitioners requested in the prayer for relief in their complaint."

However, this case is not yet over. The NYSRPA has argued (a) that their members' rights are still being infringed upon by the new law; and (b) that they would like to add a claim for monetary damages to their complaint, which they have not yet done. Rather than instructing the lower courts to dismiss the case entirely, SCOTUS sent it back down with instructions for the district court to look at these issues.

But that's not all!

Justice Alito, joined by Gorsuch and Thomas, penned a 31-page dissent. Kavanaugh, who concurred in the judgment, also concurred separately to indicate that he agreed with Alito on the Second Amendment issues presented, but believed the case before the court was moot.

Alito analogized this case to the 2008 landmark case DC v. Heller, which held for the first time that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own a handgun, writing

We deal here with the same core Second Amendment right, the right to keep a handgun in the home for self-defense ... [because] a necessary concomitant of this right is the right to take a gun outside the home for certain purposes.

One of these is to take a gun for maintenance or repair, which City law allows. Another is to take a gun outside the home in order to transfer ownership lawfully, which the City also allows. And still another is to take a gun to a range in order to gain and maintain the skill necessary to use it responsibly.

Alito also indicated that the Court should take a closer look at how lower courts are interpreting Heller, saying

We are told that the mode of review in this case is representative of the way Heller has been treated in the lower courts. If that is true, there is cause for concern.

That this reasoning was joined by four of the five conservatives on the Court indicates that they may have their eyes out for other Second Amendment cases to review. And if the current Court — which is far more conservative than the Heller Court — decides to expand upon the Second Amendment, it's likely to lead to disaster. If Heller is further extended, it could be fatal to gun control efforts around the country.

So once again ... *takes a deep breath* ... our greatest hope appears to be ... *gulp* ... John Roberts.

So what happens now?

Now this case goes back to the lower courts, for the parties to hash things out. We may or may not see this case back up in front of SCOTUS before all is said and done. And although things ended up okay this time, this Court expanding on Second Amendment rights is a very bad, no good thing for people who care about stopping some mass murder, sometimes.


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Jamie Lynn Crofts
Jamie Lynn Crofts is sick of your bullshit. When she’s not wrangling cats, she’s probably writing about nerdy legal stuff, rocking out at karaoke, or tweeting about god knows what. Jamie would kindly like to remind everyone that it’s perfectly legal to tell Bob Murray to eat shit.
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