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NYC is trying to avoid a Second Amendment SCOTUS fight, but that might not work

Has the city done enough to respect gun owners' rights?

Photo by Rick Gershon/Getty Images

When the Supreme Court comes back to work in the fall, it's currently scheduled to take up its first big gun rights case in a while, but not if the city of New York has its way.

The question to be decided in the case of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. [NYSRPA] v. City of New York, New York — which the Supreme Court agreed in January to take up — is whether New York's laws about transporting a licensed, unloaded, and locked firearm to a residence or shooting range outside the five boroughs is consistent with the Second Amendment.

Now, however, New York City claims that because it finally eased the restrictions on transporting firearms for the city's licensed gun owners, there's no longer a case in controversy that requires the Supreme Court's review of the matter.

"Independently and together, the new statute and regulation give petitioners everything they have sought in this lawsuit," the city's legal team argued in a court document in July.

"Time and again, therefore, this Court has ordered cases dismissed ... where intervening developments seemingly mooted a case but plaintiffs nonetheless implored the Court to decide it," the city added. "Put another way, [the Supreme Court] may not 'rule on a plaintiff's entitlement to relief' simply because he 'won't take 'yes' for an answer,'" the city suggested, citing a previous opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts.

Lawyers for the NYSRPA responded to the city's position with a letter saying that the case should still go before the Supreme Court.

"Whatever the merits of respondents' mootness arguments, there is no reason to validate respondents' efforts to deviate from the ordinary procedures for bringing those arguments before this Court," the letter says.

The Supreme Court, according to the Washington Post, has told both parties involved to continue filing briefs on the matter and that the issue will be taken up just before its new session begins in October.

The city's policy reversal came after the city successfully defended the regulations in both federal district and appeals court, the Post pointed out, suggesting that the city doesn't think it has much of a chance of success in front of the Supreme Court's current makeup, which now features Trump-appointed Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

If the court still decides to press ahead and hear the case despite New York City's mootness claims, a final decision would come out well before the 2020 general election and possibly during primary season.

One last thing…
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