U.S. Supreme Court

Closely watched gun-rights case tossed as moot by SCOTUS; Kavanaugh urges new cert grant

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The U.S. Supreme Court won’t decide a closely watched case that could have been used to extend the right to have a gun to outside the home.

In a per curiam opinion, the high court dismissed the Second Amendment case as moot Monday.

Three of the court’s conservative justices dissented on the mootness question and said the law violated the Second Amendment. A fourth justice concurred with the decision to dismiss the case but agreed with the dissent’s analysis of precedent.

At issue was the constitutionality of a New York City ordinance that barred city residents from transporting handguns to a second home or shooting range outside city limits. The city has since revised the law to allow such transport, making the case moot, the Supreme Court majority said.

The challengers—three individuals and the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association—may still have an option, however. They sought an injunction and a declaratory judgment but did not initially seek money damages. The Supreme Court said the lower courts could still consider whether the challengers can seek damages.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. dissented in an opinion joined by Justice Neil M. Gorsuch and mostly joined by Justice Clarence Thomas.

Alito said the case wasn’t moot because the challengers had sought “any such further relief as the court deems just and proper,” which encompassed money damages. He also said the challengers still disagreed with restrictions in the revised law that require trips with guns outside the city to be direct, continuous and uninterrupted.

“A challenge to an allegedly unconstitutional law does not become moot with the enactment of new legislation that reduces but does not eliminate the injury originally alleged,” Alito said.

Alito went on to say that the New York City law violated the Second Amendment because it interfered with the right to keep a handgun in the home for self-defense, as established by two cases—District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago. Taking a gun to a gun range to maintain skill is part of that right, he said.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh agreed the case was moot but said he agreed with Alito’s general analysis of Heller and McDonald. The Supreme Court had not ruled on a Second Amendment case since those decisions were issued in 2008 and 2010.

“I share Justice Alito’s concern that some federal and state courts may not be properly applying Heller and McDonald,” Kavanaugh said. “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.”

The case is New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. City of New York.

Hat tip to SCOTUSblog.

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