May 14, 2019 — Today, Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence filed an amicus brief in the first major Second Amendment case to reach the Supreme Court in nearly a decade. The justices announced in January that they would hear a challenge to a provision in New York City’s handgun licensing law, which restricts the transportation of handguns licensed for the home. Giffords Law Center’s brief urged the Court not to use this unique restriction, specific to New York City, to revisit the prevailing approach to Second Amendment cases that protects both rights and public safety by approving constitutional gun safety laws.
Hannah Shearer, Giffords Law Center Litigation Director:
“Gun safety is on the march across the country. In state after state, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have come together to pass the stronger laws most Americans agree can save lives from gunfire. That’s caused opponents on the fringes to grow desperate to stop this momentum by any means. Gun-safety opponents have now made clear they plan to use this unusual case as a Trojan Horse to launch a radical re-interpretation of the Second Amendment. But their strategy is inconsistent with basic constitutional principles, ignores the consensus built by lower courts, and most importantly puts communities in danger of more violence. America is not a place where laws that follow the Constitution, respect well-settled precedent, and are passed by democratically elected legislators are tossed out in the interests of serving a special interest like the gun lobby.”
In this lawsuit, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. City of New York, the New York State affiliate of the NRA and other plaintiffs are challenging a New York City law that prohibits individuals in possession of a “premises” license, the narrower of the two types of firearm licenses the city offers, from transporting their guns to locations outside New York City. This is the first major case to be heard on the issue of gun rights since District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008 and McDonald v. City of Chicago in 2010.
In 2008, writing for the majority in District of Columbia v. Heller, Justice Antonin Scalia said that “[the Second Amendment] is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” He also provided a number of examples of constitutional gun safety regulations, like laws prohibiting guns in schools and restricting possession of guns by dangerous people. Lower courts have upheld many gun laws and regulations in line with Justice Scalia’s guidance, and have developed a consensus approach that protects both rights and public safety.
The brief from Giffords Law Center argues that there is no need to use a lawsuit that raises narrow issues about New York City’s law to answer larger questions about the Second Amendment. But if that happens, the Court must reject dangerous interpretations of the Second Amendment that contradict the careful limits laid out in Heller, and ensure that lower courts continue to take public safety into account when reviewing gun safety laws.