This morning [Monday] the Supreme Court heard oral argument in a challenge to the constitutionality of a New York City rule that barred gun owners from taking their licensed guns outside the city. The gun owners argued that the rule violated their right to “keep and bear arms” under the Constitution’s Second Amendment. But it’s not clear that the justices will reach the merits of the gun owners’ complaint. Instead, it seemed possible (although far from certain) that they could throw out the case because the dispute is now moot – that is, no longer a live controversy – after the city repealed the rule last summer.
The lawsuit before the justices today was filed by New York City residents who have licenses to have guns at their homes. The gun owners wanted to be able to take their guns to target ranges and weekend homes outside the city, but they were barred from doing so by the city’s transport ban.
After a federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit upheld the ban, the gun owners went to the Supreme Court, which agreed to review the case in January. That announcement was significant, because the justices had not taken on a Second Amendment case for nearly a decade. But over the summer the city urged the justices to dismiss the case before it could be argued, explaining that because it had repealed the ban and the state had changed its laws, the gun owners had received everything that they had asked for. The justices declined to do so, instead setting the case for oral argument today.