But the court’s new conservative majority has signaled it is more receptive to Second Amendment challenges. Several justices have said they are anxious to explore gun rights first acknowledged by the court in 2008, when it ruled in District of Columbia v. Heller that individuals have the right to gun ownership for self-defense in their homes.
The decision to accept the case comes as the nation reels from a series of mass shootings. President Biden has advocated new measures and a strengthening of gun-control laws, and his administration will surely argue against weakening existing provisions.
In its brief to the court, the NRA-affiliated New York State Rifle & Pistol Association said that “perhaps the single most important unresolved Second Amendment question” since the court found an individual right to gun ownership “is whether the Second Amendment secures the individual right to bear arms for self-defense where confrontations often occur: outside the home.”
The association contends that “the text, history, and tradition of the Second Amendment and this Court’s binding precedents compel the conclusion that the Second Amendment does indeed secure that right.”
After the court announced it was taking the case for argument next fall, the NRA said most states already agree the right to carry a weapon outside the home is fundamental.
“The [Supreme] Court rarely takes Second Amendment cases,” Jason Ouimet, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action said in a statement. “We’re confident that the court will tell New York and the other states that our Second Amendment right to defend ourselves is fundamental, and doesn’t vanish when we leave our homes.”
Gun-control advocates saw the decision and its timing as ominous.
“Over the past month, Americans have reckoned with a never-ending series of shootings in public places, including shootings by law enforcement,” Hannah Shearer, litigation director at the Giffords Law Center, said in a statement.
“The Supreme Court’s willingness to take up this case is a reckless response to our nation’s grief and could take us in the completely wrong direction by restricting commonsense gun safety regulation,” she added. “Today’s announcement is a warning sign that our nation’s highest court is poised to brush aside the will of the people and instead side with gun lobby groups seeking to eliminate even the most modest firearm laws.”
Biden has urged the Senate to pass broader checks on gun buyers already approved by the House, and he has said he supports restrictions on certain weapons. His administration has said it would also pursue measures that did not require congressional action.
The Supreme Court previously turned down a request to review the New York laws, and the state’s attorney general, Letitia James (D), had asked it to do so again.
The state’s law “has existed in the same essential form since 1913 and descends from a long Anglo-American tradition of regulating the carrying of firearms in public,” she wrote in a brief to the court.
She said it complied with the Supreme Court’s reasoning in Heller: “that the Second Amendment right is not unlimited and can be subject to state regulation consistent with the historical scope of the right.”
The case is brought by two men, Robert Nash and Brandon Koch. Each received a permit to carry a gun outside the home for hunting and target practice, but they were turned down to carry a concealed weapon for self-defense.
The case is New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Corlett.