David Kopel on first gun case to be heard by the Supreme Court in a decade.
For the first time in nearly a decade, the Supreme Court has voted to hear argument in a Second Amendment case. Although the schedule has not been set, oral argument in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. City of New York, New York could take place this Spring. The case presents the Supreme Court with the opportunity to address an eccentric and abusive New York law, and, more broadly, to begin reining in lower court nullification of the Supreme Court’s precedents in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago.
Legal background: Since the Sullivan Act in 1911, New Yorkers must obtain a license to own a handgun. As will be detailed below, the New York Police Department’s enforcement of the Sullivan Act was abusive from the very start, and has generally remained so ever since.
Under state law, there are two types of handgun licenses: “carry” licenses and “premises” licenses. N.Y. Penal Law §§ 400.00(2)(a), (f). A carry license allows an individual to ‘have and carry [a] concealed’ handgun ‘without regard to employment or place of possession.'” But a carry license is only granted “when proper cause exists” for the issuance of the license. Id. § 400.00(2)(f).
“Proper cause” is not defined by the Penal Law, but New York State courts have defined the term to include carrying a handgun for target practice, hunting, or self-defense. When an applicant demonstrates proper cause to carry a handgun for target practice or hunting, the licensing officer may restrict a carry license “to the purposes that justified the issuance.” New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n, Inc. v. City of New York, 883 F.3d 45, 52-53 (2d Cir. 2018) (“NYSRPA”).
by David Kopel