NYSRPA v. NYC Leaves Us Asking: When Will SCOTUS Defend the 2A?

In 2018, the New York State Rifle And Pistol Association (NYSRPA) filed a suit against New York City, stating that NYC’s draconian permitting and transporting requirements were an infringement on the right to bear arms from one residence to another, citing the Heller decision in which specifically the Courts ruled that keeping arms in the home is an individual right.

Advocates for the RKBA shared a collective sort of excitement for this case; a favorable ruling would, in many analyses, be the first blow landed against states with restrictions that prohibited the possession of firearms outside the home. Court cases like Peruta v. San Diego, formerly denied hearing and also related to the carrying of arms outside the home, would have a new leg to stand on. With a supposedly favorable SCOTUS, the excitement was justified.

Then, two wrenches: First, New York City, under threat of this SCOTUS hearing, changed it’s law in question, effectively turning the case moot. Second, five US Senators demanded that the SCOTUS not hear this case, suggesting that doing so could result in legislative reprisal. Justice Alito commented on this in his dissent:

If the Court did not [refuse to hear the case], they intimated, the public would realize that the Court is “motivated mainly by politics, rather than by adherence to the law,” and the Court would face the possibility of legislative reprisal.

Justice Alito, on SCOTUS intimidation, NYSRPA v. NYC

Threats of legislative action aside, the discussion changed from whether or not NYC’s regulation was permissible under the Constitution, to a question about proper court procedure: Should the SCOTUS hear a case that’s addressing a law and grievance that are now, effectively, resolved?

The answer was: No.

Justice Alito, who disagrees that the case is moot along with Justices Gorsuch and Thomas, penned a dissent in which he asserts that refusal to hear this case amounts to “declining jurisdiction [in which they no right to do]” and that mootness should not apply to “live controversies” on actively argued issues:

“Thus, in this case, we must apply the well-established standards for determining whether a case is moot, and under those standards, we still have a live case before us. It is certainly true that the new City ordinance and the new State law give petitioners most of what they sought, but that is not the test for mootness.”

Justice Alito, dissenting, NYSRPA v. NYC

Justice Kavanaugh, who agreed that the case is moot, claims to mutually agree with the dissenting Justices that Heller isn’t being applied properly, but does not believe this is the case in which to address it, suggesting that maybe in the future the SCOTUS will take action:

“And I share JUSTICE ALITO’s concern that some federal and state courts may not be properly applying Heller and McDonald. The Court should address that issue soon, perhaps in one of the several Second Amendment cases with petitions for certiorari now pending before the Court.”

Justice Kavanaugh, NYSRPA v. NYC

Like with other cases dismissed with comforting words, Kavanaugh’s are at this time an empty gesture; Americans across the country are subjected to infringements on their Constitutionally-protected Rights, carrying real penalties for breaking them. Those empty gestures don’t ameliorate those paying the price for Draconian state regulations.

Among this, there’s also an uncomfortable question; did threats of legal action from members of the Senate actually have an effect on the decision to hear the case? I fear that whether or not it was a factor is irrelevant and may not actually matter; the apparent acquiescence to intimidation tactics will likely open the door to similar action in the future for any other case that runs afoul of the anti-RKBA power-players.

Moot or not, the refusal to hear this case has likely changed the landscape for gun-related hearings irreversibly. We can only hope that the Court will have the fortitude and foresight before it becomes too late.