[UPDATE: The New York State Rifle and Pistol Association responded to the city’s letter, calling it “both premature and procedurally improper.” On July 8, the Supreme Court’s electronic docket indicated that the letter had not been accepted for filing.]
In January, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to New York City’s ban on transporting guns – including those that are licensed and unloaded – anywhere outside the city limits. The case would be the first time in nearly a decade that the justices would weigh in on how far states and cities can go in restricting gun rights, but it is now unclear whether the justices Supreme Court will reach the merits of the challenge: Today the city told the Supreme Court that the case is moot – that is, no longer a live controversy – as a result of both changes to the city’s rules and new state laws.
In a letter to Scott Harris, the clerk of the Supreme Court, lawyer Richard Dearing first explained that the city had changed its rules to allow licensed gun owners to transport their guns to, among other places, second homes and shooting ranges outside the city. That regulation will go into effect on July 21. The New York legislature has also passed a law – which has not yet been signed by the state’s governor – that would allow licensed gun owners to transport handguns to another place where they are allowed to have them, Dearing continued, including second homes and shooting ranges.
The case is moot, Dearing argued, because the “new city regulation gives” the challengers “everything they have sought in this lawsuit. The new state law, upon signature by the governor, will make the case doubly moot.” Dearing asked the justices to send the case back to the lower court with instructions to dismiss it. If the court does not do so, Dearing noted, the city “will file a brief on the designated due date maintaining in greater detail that the case is moot.” The city does not intend, Dearing made clear, to address the merits of the challengers’ claim.
The city’s brief on the merits is currently due on August 5, 2019.