After the Supreme Court recently decided against the state of New York in New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn., Inc. v. Bruen (Bruen), the state’s legislature and its governor-by-appointment, Kathy Hochul, imposed even stricter regulations on gun owners. In The American Conservative, Frank DeVito, an attorney and a current fellow in the Napa Legal Good Counselor Project, suggests of the new laws that “courts will likely strike these down as well.” He writes:
On October 5, the Supreme Court vacated a lower-court decision in a case called Morin v. Lyver. The lower court upheld the constitutionality of a Massachusetts statute that included strict licensing standards to purchase or possess a pistol. The law included a lifetime ban on licensing to those convicted of certain non-violent offenses involving possession or use of firearms. The Supreme Court used language identical to that in Bianchi v. Frosh and the other cases mentioned above: the case was “remanded to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit for further consideration in light of New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn., Inc. v. Bruen.”
These results are not surprising. The U.S. Supreme Court takes cases and writes extensive opinions when there are difficult questions of law that have not been answered, when bad precedent needs to be revisited and overwritten, and when different federal circuit courts disagree on interpretation of law. The Court will not waste its time hearing cases that have already been clearly decided—a category that will include most Second Amendment cases post-Bruen.
The Bruen test is clear. If a law restricts the right to keep and bear arms, especially weapons in common use, that law is unconstitutional unless the law is consistent with traditional, historic firearm regulations. Laws that ban or severely regulate weapons in common use are simply not going to survive scrutiny under Bruen. Both handguns and long rifles such as AR-15s are objectively weapons in common use.
Despite the obvious, the left will keep trying. Immediately after the Bruen case was decided, New York passed new gun legislation that, among other things, severely restricts where guns may be carried and requires vetting of one’s social-media accounts to determine fitness to possess a firearm. Some of these new restrictions are actually more severe than those struck down by Bruen, and courts will likely strike these down as well. There is already a legal challenge to the new laws progressing through the courts.
It is worth asking: what are these progressive state governments trying to do? Are they merely making a political statement, knowing the legislation will be struck down as unconstitutional? Are they legitimately testing the waters to find out which restrictions will pass muster post-Bruen? Are they just losing their collective minds at the fact that they no longer have free rein to pass gun-control laws that clearly violate the Second Amendment? Perhaps time will tell as we see how legislatures in blue states behave as they get one “remanded to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit for further consideration in light of New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn., Inc. v. Bruen” after another.
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