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The Law Blogger is a law-related blog that informs and discusses current matters of legal interest to readers of The Oakland Press and to consumers of legal services in the community. We hope readers will  find it entertaining but also informative. The Law Blogger does not, however, impart legal advice, as only attorneys are licensed to provide legal counsel.
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Monday, December 2, 2019

SCOTUS Addresses Second Amendment for First Time in a Decade

Back in 2009, we were new to blogging over here at the Law Blogger when a very differently configured SCOTUS last applied state law to the Second Amendment. In District of Columbia v Heller, decided in 2008, SCOTUS recognized for the first time an individual's right to bear arms in self defense.

Nearly 10-years ago to the day, we predicted that the 2nd Amendment cases yet to be decided that term would inure to the benefit of gun owners; we were correct. Our earlier post sets the stage for the case argued today before the SCOTUS; a case straight out of New York City.

This recent case, known as New York State Rifle and Pistol Owners v New York City, involves a relatively strict local ordinance banning transportation of personally owned firearms within the city. Eventually, NYC's licensed gun owners grew weary of violating this ordinance every time they wanted to take their weapons outside their homes outside the City. Asserting that the ordinance unconstitutionally interfered with their right to "keep and bear arms", they sued the Big Apple.

Both the federal court in Manhattan and the Second Circuit upheld Gotham's local ordinance. When the gun owners' petition for certeriorari was granted, our nation took note. Today, both sides argued before our High Court.

One of the first hurdles for the gun owner's this morning was the inconvenient fact that NYC amended its ordinance, gutting the onerous sections central to the litigation. In appellate terms, this rendered the issue moot; or at least arguably moot. Curiously, when NYC advised the SCOTUS of the amendment this summer, asking for a dismissal, the High Court declined to do so, scheduling the oral arguments for today.

Significantly, the mootness component of the New York case may give the SCOTUS the perfect cover to avoid a contentious 5-4 plurality on the hot-button issue of gun control. If the Court finds that the amendment rendered the gun ordinance constitutional, then there will be no merits decision or analysis of the Second Amendment.

According to the professional court watchers, the justices spent precious little oral argument time addressing whether NYC's former ordinance actually violated the Second Amendment. One clue from the Court's liberal wing arose when Justice Sonia Sotomayor characterized Heller's standard of determining whether the gun restriction was consistent with the "text, spirit and tradition" of the Second Amendment, was a "made-up" standard. On the other end of the SCOTUS spectrum, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito were focused on keeping the case from getting dismissed, and getting to the merits of the gun restriction.

As the case goes to conference over the next few months, the internal debate will, no doubt, involve gun control in the light of America's protracted epidemic of gun violence, shooting rampages, and weapons-based mass murder. This blog touched this nerve about a year ago in this post on "assault rifles"; the post resulted in dozens of lively comments on both sides of the issue.

We here at the Law Blogger will monitor the case and keep our readers posted. If the Court decides to address the merits of the case, an anxiously-awaited decision will be released in late May or June.  Otherwise, expect a one paragraph mootness dismissal with Justices Gorsuch and Alito writing separately.
Post #627

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