The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear arguments in a New York gun-rights case, declaring the issue moot.
Gun owners in New York and the NRA sued the city and state over an ordinance and law that barred residents from carrying a licensed, locked, and unloaded gun outside city limits, even if the gun owner was going to a gun range or a second home.
The plaintiffs lost in lower court and appealed to the high court, which agreed to hear arguments. While waiting, the city and state modified the measures to allow owners to transport weapons outside the city.
Because the government changed the legislation, the high court — by a vote of six to three — now considers the issue moot. Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch disagree that the issue is moot.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh agreed in a separate opinion with the majority on procedural grounds but with the dissenting justices that some federal and state courts aren’t properly applying standards set in Supreme Court cases District of Columbia v. Heller (DC’s 30-year-old handgun ban declared unconstitutional) and McDonald v. City of Chicago (individual right to keep and bear arms incorporated by either Due Process Clause or Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment).
From the dissenting opinion (which begins on page four) in the 34-page (PDF) document:
By incorrectly dismissing this case as moot, the Court permits our docket to be manipulated in a way that should not be countenanced.
It is certainly true that the new City ordinance and the new State law give petitioners most of what they sought, but that is not the test for mootness. Instead, “a case ‘becomes moot only when it is impossible for a court to grant any effectual relief whatever to the prevailing party.’” Chafin v. Chafin, 568 U. S. 165, 172 (2013) (emphasis added). “‘As long as the parties have a concrete interest, however small, in the outcome of the litigation, the case is not moot.’” Ibid. (emphasis added).
The dissenting justices contended that the modified law doesn’t give the plaintiffs all the injunctive relief they sought, and if they reversed the case on the merits and sent it back to a lower court, the court could award them damages to remedy the Second Amendment violation.
The high court agreeing to hear the case “apparently” led the city to modify the law.
“In this case, the amended City ordinance and the new State law gave petitioners most of what they sought in their complaint, but the new laws did not give them complete relief,” the justices wrote. “It is entirely possible for them to obtain more relief, and therefore this case is not moot.”
The dissenters stated that the city’s ordinance is unclear, and the state’s law complicates the issue. Then there’s still the question of whether the government violated the residents’ Second Amendment right. If so, they’re entitled to relief. The dissenters hypothetically decided on the merits in the dissenting opinion and contended that the city and state violated the Second Amendment.
Other Second Amendment cases are pending. From Reuters:
There are other cases pending that could give the court’s conservative majority a chance to widen gun rights including challenges to assault weapon bans in Massachusetts and Cook County, Illinois, and permit requirements to carry firearms outside the home in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Maryland. The justices are set to discuss privately on Friday whether to take up these cases.