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Supreme Court Takes Big Second Amendment Case

In a column for yesterday’s Breitbart our friend Ken Blackwell reported the Supreme Court has agreed to take up an important Second Amendment case: New York Rifle & Pistol

Association v. Corlett, No. 20-843 in the Supreme Court of the United States.

As Ambassador Blackwell noted, the Second Amendment protects “the right to keep and bear arms.” The Supreme Court held in its 2008 landmark decision District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment guarantees that right for private citizens. In its 2010 follow-up case McDonald v. City of Chicago the Court held that the right to bear arms applies against state and local governments the same way it does the federal government.

Jack Phillips of the Epoch Times reported the high court on Monday issued a brief order saying, “The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted limited to the following question: Whether the State’s denial of petitioners’ applications for concealed-carry licenses for self-defense violated the Second Amendment.”

Most states provide permits to all qualified applicants observed Blackwell. However, a few states claim the authority to require citizens to prove special circumstances to qualify for a permit, such as having an abusive ex-spouse or being a prosecutor who fears retaliation from the criminals he is prosecuting.

New York has such restrictions. In Monday’s order, the justices granted review in a constitutional challenge to New York’s law, with the petition arguing that the Second Amendment entitles them to concealed-carry permits for purposes of general self-defense only, without any special circumstances.

Mr. Phillips of the Epoch Times explained that Robert Nash and Brendan Koch, the two men who brought the lawsuit, both applied for licenses to carry handguns in New York state for self-defense but were denied. A district court later said that neither had proper cause to carry a handgun because they did not face “any special or unique danger to [their] life.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, wrote in a legal brief calling on the Supreme Court not to grant the case, saying the state law is consistent with prior rulings.

James said that New York’s law was “supported by a centuries-old tradition of state and local measures regulating the carrying of firearms in public” and existed in the same essential form since 1913. “New York’s law directly advances the State’s compelling interests in protecting the public from gun violence,” she said.

The big question now is how the new justices who joined the court since the Heller and McDonald decisions are going to vote.

Blackwell says this is the first major petition on the Second Amendment to be considered since Justice Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the seat formerly held by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Evidently Second Amendment supporters now at least have support from the necessary four justices to grant review, though it is not yet clear whether they have the additional support for five votes to prevail in the case.

Other Second Amendment advocates were more optimistic.

“This case was made possible by the Second Amendment Foundation’s Supreme Court victory in McDonald v. City of Chicago that incorporated the Second Amendment to the states via the 14th Amendment,” noted Second Amendment Foundation founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb. “SAF’s victory in that case built the foundation for this and other lawsuits against states and localities to be heard by the Supreme Court to protect and expand gun rights, and we are proud of that.”

Gottlieb said it is certain the current makeup of the high court has opened this important door. With the addition last year of Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacancy created by the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the court now has a majority of constitutional jurists who will no longer treat the Second Amendment as “a constitutional orphan,” as once observed by Associate Justice Clarence Thomas.

Jack Phillips reminded us in his reporting that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, considered possibly the most conservative justice, wrote several years ago that courts have engaged in a “general failure to afford the 2nd Amendment the respect due an enumerated constitutional right.” Going further, he wrote: “If a lower court treated another right so cavalierly, I have little doubt that this court would intervene … The 2nd Amendment is a disfavored right in this court.”

Justice Brett Kavanaugh, after the court dismissed a gun case last term, wrote in early 2020 he hopes the court will take up a Second Amendment-related challenge in the near future, writing: “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.”

Former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement is representing the challengers. Clement also argued before the Court in the Heller and McDonald cases, and is regarded as one of the top litigators in the nation on this issue.

CHQ Editor George Rasley is a certified rifle and pistol instructor, a Glock ® certified pistol armorer and a veteran of over 300 political campaigns, including every Republican presidential campaign from 1976 to 2008. He served as lead advance representative for Governor Sarah Palin in 2008 and has served as a staff member, consultant, or advance representative for some of America's most recognized conservative Republican political figures, including President Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. A member of American MENSA, he served in policy and communications positions on the House and Senate staff, and during the George H.W. Bush administration he served on the White House staff of Vice President Dan Quayle.

  • Supreme Court

  • Second Amendment

  • Right to bear arms

  • New York Rifle & Pistol Association v. Corlett

  • District of Columbia v. Heller

  • McDonald v. City of Chicago

  • Concealed Carry Permits

  • New York Attorney General Letitia James

  • Amy Coney Barrett

  • Brett Kavanaugh

  • Neil Gorsuch

  • Former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement

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