On Monday, the United States Supreme Court declined to review two NRA cases raising Second Amendment issues, NRA v. BATFE and NRA v. McCraw, both of which concerned the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding adults between the ages of 18 and 21.
The NRA v. BATFE case asked the Court to determine the constitutionality of the federal law prohibiting handgun sales by licensed dealers to adults 18-21 years old. The law effectively creates a nationwide, categorical ban on young adults’ access to what the Court has previously described as “the quintessential self-defense weapon.” The NRA’s McCraw case asked the Court to consider the validity of Texas’s prohibition on adults 18-21 years old publicly carrying licensed firearms. The High Court’s refusal to hear these cases unfortunately leaves in place the lower courts’ opinions upholding the bans.
Despite requests by the NRA for the Supreme Court to review Second Amendment cases over the years, the High Court has ruled on Second Amendment issues only twice in recent history. The first case was 2008's Heller v. District of Columbia, which confirmed that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right and struck down the District’s ban on the possession of handguns in the home. The second, McDonald v. City of Chicago, the Supreme Court made clear that the right it recognized in Heller protects against infringement by local and state governments as well as the federal government.
Since those decisions came down there has been a lot of litigation challenging state and local gun control laws across the country, including many NRA-sponsored cases. Many lower courts have done everything possible to minimize and limit the impact of the Heller and McDonald decisions, practically thumbing their noses at Heller and daring the Supreme Court to clarify some outstanding issues. Cases from around the country have been jockeying for position to get another Second Amendment ruling from the High Court, but so far the Supreme Court has turned them all down.
There are also several other NRA-supported cases that may be petitioned to the Supreme Court in the near future, including challenges to the Connecticut, New York, and Colorado gun bans passed last year and several cases in California.
In a tremendous recent victory, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Peruta v. County of San Diego that there is a fundamental right to bear arms outside the home for self-defense and struck down San Diego, California’s restrictive scheme for issuing licenses to carry in public.
San Diego County Sheriff Gore has announced that he will not seek either rehearing by an en banc panel of the Ninth Circuit or Supreme Court review of the Peruta decision. But the Ninth Circuit could decide to rehear the case on its own accord. If the Ninth Circuit reverses the Peruta decision, the plaintiffs will ask the Supreme Court to review that decision. We will better know the chances of that happening within the next month. So stay tuned.
Two other NRA-supported California cases that may also be on track for Supreme Court review were argued and submitted to the Ninth Circuit in October, and a decision is due any day. Mckay v. Hutchens challenges the Orange County California Sheriff’s refusal to issue licenses to carry absent a showing of special need. And Jackson v. San Francisco challenges San Francisco’s ordinances requiring that handguns be locked away within the home and prohibiting the sale of self-defense (hollow-point) ammunition. In the various petitions that have come before the Supreme Court since Heller and McDonald, the Court has yet to be faced with a case like Jackson, which is very similar to the facts of the Heller and McDonald cases.
With so many requests concerning Second Amendment issues piling up in the Supreme Court, something has to give. Some speculate that the Court may be waiting to settle a particular question that it has not seen in any of the petitions for review so far. But whether that is the case, and what that question might be, is pure conjecture. What is certain is that the Supreme Court will continue to be asked to resolve Second Amendment questions, and the NRA will continue to fight to make that happen.
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