On April 29, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to grant a request by the city of New York to delay the proceedings in the NRA-supported appeal of New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n, Inc. v. City of New York (No. 15-683).
Generally, New York state law prohibits even the possession of a handgun in the home without a license. A licensee in New York City (NYC) must comply with additional and specific restrictions. A license is “not transferable to any other person or location,” and anyone with a “premises license” is prohibited from removing the handgun “from the address specified on the license.” However, because the rules also require licensees to “endeavor to engage in periodic handgun practice,” an exception at 38 R.C.N.Y. § 5-23(a)(3) allows a licensee to transport a handgun “to and from an authorized small arms range/shooting club.” This narrow exception applies only to seven ranges located in NYC. It restricts the travel to a direct route to and from the range, and requires the handgun to be transported unloaded (in a locked container) and separate from any ammunition. Licensees who wish to take their guns to other ranges or participate in events or competitions outside NYC—or who want to transport their guns to another location—are prohibited from doing so.
In January, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal in this case. The petitioners, individual licensees and the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association argue that—apart from the “precisely zero empirical evidence” provided by the city to justify its licensing rules as a public safety measure—these “extreme, unjustified and irrational” transport and travel restrictions on lawfully owned handguns violate the Second Amendment, the Commerce Clause, and the fundamental right to travel.
However, on April 12, legal counsel for the city of New York and the New York City Police Department (NYPD) filed a motion with the Supreme Court seeking to suspend the proceedings, based on a new proposal to change the NYC handgun rules. The motion indicates that the NYPD has published a “Notice of Public Hearing and Opportunity to Comment on Proposed Rule,” which should set in motion a process that might result in a future change in the licensing rules.
However, even assuming this proposed rule would pass into law as drafted, it represents only a limited modification to existing 38 R.C.N.Y. § 5-23(a). The proposal would not rescind the restraints already in place (and at issue in the appeal), but would allow a premises licensee to transport a handgun listed on their license to: (1) another premises of the licensee “where the licensee is authorized to have and possess a handgun”; (2) a small-arms range/shooting club authorized by law to operate as such, whether located within or outside NYC; and (3) a shooting competition at which the licensee may possess the handgun “consistent with the law applicable at the place of the competition.” All of these retain the requirement that the handgun be transported unloaded (in a locked container) with ammunition being “carried separately,” and that the licensee travel “directly” to and from these additional locations.
Counsel for the petitioners responded to the city’s “extraordinary request” by indicating there is no good reason to grant an “indefinite hold.” The city’s motion is, at best, premature given the uncertain status of the proposed amendment, and the amendment itself is at odds with the city’s forceful defense of the existing rules as both necessary and constitutional.
As NRA-ILA’s Executive Director Chris W. Cox put it, “The City of New York did not respect its citizens’ Second Amendment rights before the Supreme Court granted review in this case and it will not respect them going forward. We are confident that the court will reject New York’s desperate attempt to avoid review of its blatantly unconstitutional laws.”