New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. City of New York, New York

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New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. City of New York, New York
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Full case nameNew York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc., et al. v. City of New York, New York. et al.
Docket nos.18-280

New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. City of New York, New York is a pending case before the Supreme Court of the United States dealing with gun ownership rights under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. It is the first major gun-related case to be heard by the Supreme Court in nearly 10 years, following District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008 and McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010). In the specific case, the question relates to strict gun ownership laws of New York City, questioning whether the city's restriction on transport of a licensed firearm out of one's home interferes with Second Amendment rights as well as the Commerce Clause and the right to travel.


The Court's landmark decision in District of Columbia v. Heller affirmed that the Second Amendment allowed United States citizens to own guns within the privacy of their own home, though sale, possession and carrying of guns, including specific limitations on weapon types, may be regulated. McDonald v. City of Chicago affirmed that this Constitutional right was incorporated to the states, prohibiting regulations that completed prevented gun ownership. Justice Antonin Scalia, in his majority opinion for Heller, wrote that the Supreme Court was not upholding "a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose."[1] As a result, a wide variety of state legislation related to what types of guns can be purchased, if a permit and/or license is required before owning a gun, if guns can be carried in public, and so forth.

The gun laws of New York state are generally considered highly restrictive, while New York City's own ordinances on guns are even more restrictive than the state level. Outside of certain professions where gun ownership is considered a necessity, gun owners in New York City may only possess a gun within their home under a "premises license", where it must be kept unloaded and in a locked container. Further, gun owners may not transport these guns, except directly to and from one of the city's seven shooting ranges. This includes prohibiting the transport of guns to outside the city limits, even to a external shooting range or to a second residence owned by the gun owner. Prior to 2001, the city did offer "target licenses" that would allow owners to transport their guns to authorized shooting range outside of the city, but the city's police found these licenses were being abused, and the city revoked granting these licenses and altered the language of the premises license to emphasize the restriction on travel. Violations of this ordinance could include up to a year in prison.

The New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. and several gun-owning individuals within New York City filed suit against the City in 2013 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (13-cv-2115-RWS) after affirming with the New York City Police that they could not take guns they owned in the city out to shooting competitions in New Jersey nor to homes that they had owned for years. The plaintiffs argued that the City's ordinance violated their Second Amendment rights affirmed by Heller, as well as the Dormant Commerce Clause and the freedom to travel. The District Court issued summary judgement for the City in 2015, dismissing the plaintiff's claims. The District Court's ruling found the City had a compelling interest to limit firearms transport to support public safety, and that affected gun owners are not prevented from traveling out of the city, without their guns, and use shooting ranges with guns purchased out-of-city. The plaintiffs sought appeal within the Second Circuit Appeals Court in 2015. The Second Circuit affirmed the District Court's findings by early 2018, adding that the Heller and McDonald only affirmed the constitutional right to own guns in defense of one's home, and not for transport or use outside of the home. The Circuit Court affirmed that under intermediate scrutiny the city had a compelling interest to restrict transport on guns within city limits.[2]

Supreme Court[edit]

The plaintiffs petitioned for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court, challenging the Second Circuit's decisons, and specifically asking if the New York City restriction on gun transport violated their Second Amendment rights, their rights under the Dormant Commerce Clause, and their right to travel. The Supreme Court granted the petition on January 22, 2019.


McDonald was the last case directly related to gun ownership rights heard by the Supreme Court. In the interim prior to this case, the Supreme Court had been petitioned on other gun ownership cases but denied certiorari. In one of the more recent denials, issued during the 2017 term, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his dissenting opinion that he would have granted certiorari, and that "the Second Amendment is a disfavored right in this Court."[3] As the Court transitioned from the 2017 to 2018, Justice Anthony Kennedy retired. Kennedy's opinion on gun rights was generally considered balanced between government and individuals, making it difficult for the justices to find the necessary majority to take a case. During the 2018 term, Justice Brett Kavanaugh was appointed as Kennedy's replacement, who holds conservative views and has shown support in his past judiciary work towards favoring gun ownership.[4] Gun control groups have been petitioning the city to change its gun laws prior to the case's decision as to render the case moot, fearing that with a conservative majority, the Court would create case law that would promote wider gun ownership.[1]

A separate concern relates to whether the Supreme Court will review the law under the concept of intermediate scrutiny, or under strict scrutiny. Strict scrutiny would require the city to show not only that they have a compelling interest to protect the transport of guns on the city streets, but also that the law is narrowly tailored to meet that interest and not overly restrict constitutional rights. Experts believe should a strict scrutiny challenge be used by the Supreme Court, they will likely find the city's law in violation.[3]


  1. ^ a b Wolf, Richard (January 31, 2019). "Supreme Court's conservatives appear poised to expand Second Amendment gun rights". USA Today. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
  2. ^ Higgens, Tucker (January 22, 2019). "Supreme Court will hear New York gun rights case on transporting unloaded handguns". CNBC. Retrieved January 23, 2019.
  3. ^ a b French, David (January 23, 2019). "The Supreme Court Has Taken a Strange Gun-Rights Case". National Review. Retrieved January 23, 2019.
  4. ^ Epps, Garrett (January 23, 2019). "Supersizing the Second Amendment". The Atlantic. Retrieved January 23, 2019.