Supreme Court Justices Debate Tossing Out Gun-Rights Case

(Bloomberg) -
Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts. (Reuters/Jim Young/File Photo)

U.S. Supreme Court justices weighed tossing out a New York City firearms case, a move that would dash the hopes of gun-rights advocates seeking an expansion of Second Amendment protections.

The justices spent most of an hour-long argument in Washington Monday debating whether to issue a ruling at all, now that New York City has scrapped the handgun-transportation restrictions at the center of the fight. Gun-rights advocates, backed by President Donald Trump, are urging the justices to rule on the merits and bolster the Second Amendment.

The residents say the now-defunct rules forced them to stop attending shooting competitions and taking licensed handguns to a second home. After the court agreed to hear the case, the city and state changed the rules in an effort to have the dispute thrown out as moot.

The New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, an affiliate of the National Rifle Association, is joining the three men in pressing the appeal. New York’s supporters include Everytown for Gun Safety, an advocacy group founded by Michael Bloomberg, who is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News. Bloomberg, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, was mayor of New York from 2002 to 2013.

Chief Justice John Roberts, who could cast the pivotal vote, sought assurances from the city’s lawyer that the earlier restrictions wouldn’t have any lingering effects. Roberts asked whether the residents who sued would be “prejudiced in any way,” possibly by having their renewal applications rejected because they may have violated the earlier restrictions.

New York’s lawyer, Richard Dearing, said the residents wouldn’t suffer any repercussions. Roberts gave no clear indication whether he was satisfied by Dearing’s answers. Another potential swing vote, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, didn’t ask any questions.

The argument was the court’s first in almost a decade on the reach of the Second Amendment. The court’s decision probably will come next year in the heat of the presidential campaign.

The case is New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. New York, 18-280.