Gun News of the Week: U.S. Supreme Court to Decide Fate of New York’s Handgun Laws

Plus: Two states push to include social media history on background checks

TOP STORY

Supreme Court Poised To 'Articulate Broader Principles' of Second Amendment

A Second Amendment challenge to a New York City law that prohibits lawful handgun permit holders from transporting their unloaded, locked-up weapons outside city limits will be the first gun-rights case to go before the U.S. Supreme Court in nine years.

The Court on January 22 granted certiorari to review New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v City of New York. There was no dissent in the Court's order, which did not set a date for oral arguments.

The suit, backed by 17 state attorneys general, is the first gun case the court has accepted since 2010’s landmark McDonald v City of Chicago ruling, and among the first set of appeals accepted for review since Brett Kavanaugh joined the bench to give conservatives a clear majority.

The lawsuit alleges the city forbids residents from possessing a handgun without a license, and the only license the city makes available to most residents allows holders to possess a handgun only in their home or in transit to one of seven shooting ranges within the city, prohibiting permit holders are not allowed to transport a handgun to any place outside the city’s limits.

UCLA Law School Professor and constitutional scholar Adam Winkler told the Texas Standard that New York City's law is ”highly unusual” and no other city has one like it.

He said the Supreme Court could strike down the provisions in the particular New York City law, but it could also be looking for an opportunity to make a bigger statement.

"I think probably the real reason the court took the case was because the court was prepared to articulate some broader principles about the Second Amendment, including whether you can take a gun that you have in a home and take it outside of your home and transport it," Winkler said.

With the addition of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court now includes a 5-4 majority of conservative-leaning justices.

That will impact the decision on this case, Winkler said. "We do have five justices who are likely to be strong, favorable votes in favor of broad Second Amendment rulings," he said. "Not because they're Republican appointees, but because most of them have made clear their views on the right to bear arms."

Former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, a veteran of Second Amendment battles, told Matt Vespa in a January 24 Townhall article that the case, "is a perfect vehicle to reaffirm that those decisions and the constitutional text have consequences."

The NRA-ILA celebrated getting a gun-rights case before the Court, but lowered expectations for what the ruling may or may not bring.

“Left-leaning pundits are already issuing hysterical predictions about what this development means for gun control in the United States. May they be right and then some,” the NRA-ILA said in a statement. “The more sober and mature outlook, however, is a wait-and-see attitude, along with a healthy appreciation of how President Trump’s appointments to the court may finally reenergize a Second Amendment that has been neglected for too long.”

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UNSUPPRESSED SHUSH

Federal Hearing Protection Bills Re-Filed In Senate, House

Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee on January 24 reintroduced his hearing protection bill that would lift outdated, unnecessary federal regulations on suppressors, the Silencers Helping Us Save Hearing (SHUSH) Act of 2019.

“Suppressors can make shooting safer for the millions of hunters and sportsmen that exercise their constitutional right to use firearms every year,” Lee said in a statement. “The current process for obtaining a suppressor is far too expensive and burdensome. Our bill would remove these unnecessary federal regulations and make it easier for firearms users to protect themselves.”

The bill, S. 202, is co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas, James Risch and Mike Crapo of Idaho, and Rand Paul of Kentucky and is similar to a House bill filed in early January.

The bill would ensure the elimination of all federal regulations of suppressors, also know as silencers that are used on firearms to decrease the sound from a rifle shot. Suppressors lower the sound to about 130 decibels at most, which is about the same sound level as a chainsaw, a news release stated.

A similar bill — HR.367, The Hearing Protection Act of 2017—proposed by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) contained similar provisions in making it easier to buy suppressors, but never made it out of the Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee.

On January 3, the first day of the new congressional session, Duncan reintroduced the Hearing Protection Act (HPA) of 2019 “to remove suppressors from the National Firearms Act (NFA), making it easier for law-abiding hunters and sportsmen to protect their hearing while at the range or in the field.”

Currently, registration and a background check are required to purchase a suppressor under the National Firearms Act. A petition must be submitted to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) with two copies of ATF Form 4, TF Form 5330.20 filled out for certification from a local chief law enforcement officer, two copies of fingerprints and a $200 check. Approval could take nine to 12 months.

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STATE ROUNDUP

Illinois, New York Bills Seek Social Media Reviews For Gun Owners

Illinois has joined New York as the first states where lawmakers have introduced bills requiring that gun license applicants’ social media be included in background checks.

In the first week of its 2019 General Assembly, Illinois legislators—with Democrats controlling the governor's mansion and supermajorities in both houses—introduced bills banning "assault weapons,” revoking gun rights to those convicted of misdemeanor stalking and requiring applicants for the state-mandated Firearm Owners Identification Card (FOID) provide a list of their public social media accounts for state police review.

House Bill 888, sponsored by Rep. Daniel Didech (D-Buffalo Grove) would require FOID applicants to provide a list of their social media accounts to the Department of State Police (DPS) and for DPS to conduct a search of the accounts.

It is the second bill of its type to surface in a state legislature.

In November, New York state Sen. Kevin Parker, D-Brooklyn, submitted a proposal to require all gun-permit applicants to allow their social-media accounts and search-engine history to be scrutinized for hateful slurs and terroristic threats prior to receiving a handgun permit or having one renewed in New York.

If approved, the bill would allow an investigating officer—in most cases, a local police authority—to obtain "any log-in name, password or other means" necessary to review the applicant's social media accounts and search history.

Parker introduced the bill in response to the October 27 shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in Pittsburgh, which left 11 people dead. The suspected shooter had published numerous anti-Semitic posts on social media.

If enacted into law, Parker’s bill “would require anyone in New York applying for a handgun to hand over their social media username and password to the police,” writes conservative journalist Charles C.W. Cooke.

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IN THE COURTS

Gun Show Operators Challenge Bans In California and Florida

Gun show operators in California and Florida are legally challenging actions by local governments they claim are unconstitutional and harmed their businesses.

On January 22, Crossroads Of The West—a family owned event company that specializes in gun shows, organizing more than a dozen across four western states—filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Diego against the board that oversees state-owned Del Mar Fairgrounds.

In December, the 22nd District Agricultural Association Board of Directors, which oversees activities at the state-owned fairgrounds, voted to not host any gun shows until it formally adopted a policy to ban the sale and possession of firearms on the property.

In doing so, Crossroads maintains, the board on short notice suspended a weekend event it had held at Del Mar for more than 30 years.

The suit alleges that the moratorium on gun shows violates the plaintiffs’ First and Second Amendment rights, their civil rights, the right to commercial speech, and the right to assembly.

“Regardless of how you feel about guns, we operate within compliance of the law,” said Tracy Olcott, president and general manager of B&L Productions, the owner of Crossroads of the West. “We are heavily regulated, and gun shows in particular are more heavily regulated than brick-and-mortar stores.”

In Florida, an NRA-endorsed company is suing for the right to hold its gun show where it has for 30 years: at the War Memorial Auditorium in Fort Lauderdale.

Florida Gun Shows, which hosts shows in eight cities around the state, including several times a year in Fort Lauderdale, is challenging the city commission’s decision last year to no longer allow gun shows on public-owned land in the wake of the Valentine’s day school shooting in Parkland, less than 20 miles away.

Florida Gun Shows insists its right to operate freely has been illegally curtailed. City commissioners say they have the right to determine who can use its facilities inside a public park.

Lawyers for Florida Gun Shows sought an injunction against the city for refusing to renew its agreement to operate at the auditorium, opened in 1950 to commemorate the city’s fallen Second World War servicemen and women.

In the lawsuit, the company claims its first amendment right to free speech and 14th amendment right to equal protection were violated by the city’s refusal to renew its agreement, and that the commissioners also broke state law over its freedom to sell firearms.

District judge Federico Moreno has yet to rule on the injunction, and also has to decide if the case should proceed to trial or be dismissed.

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