Earlier this month, New York City sent a letter to Scott Harris, the clerk of the Supreme Court, to inform the justices that a challenge to the city’s ban on transporting guns outside the city limits is moot – that is, no longer a live controversy. The Supreme Court did not accept the letter, perhaps because the challengers in the case objected. The challengers argued (among other things) that the letter was “premature” because the developments that the city cited as rendering the case moot had not yet gone into effect. With changes to both state and city laws now in place, the city returned to the court today, urging the justices to remove the case from their docket for the upcoming term.
Changes to the city’s rules, the city explained, will allow licensed gun owners to transport their guns to, among other places, second homes and shooting ranges outside New York City. Those rules went into effect on July 21. And on July 16, the city continued, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that changes state laws to allow licensed gun owners to transport their handguns to other places – again, such as second homes, shooting ranges and shooting competitions – where they are legally allowed to have them.
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These developments, the city told the court again today, mean that the case is moot. The challengers, the city reasoned, had asked only for the “modest ability to transport their licensed firearms, unloaded and locked away separate from ammunition, to a shooting range or second home outside city limits” – which they now are able to do, the city stressed. The case should therefore be dismissed as moot or, at the very least, be sent back for the lower courts to decide whether it is moot.
With an August 5 deadline to file its brief on the merits looming, the city pleaded with the justices to act quickly. Not only is there no reason for the city to file a brief on the Second Amendment question, it argued, but groups that might be considering whether to file “friend of the court” briefs supporting the city “are caught in limbo, not knowing whether this case is going forward.”
This post was also published on SCOTUSblog.