The late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia was asked in 2013 whether the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms stood on equal ground with other constitutional protections, such as freedom of speech.
“We’re going to find out, aren’t we?” he quipped.
That Scalia — who wrote the high court’s landmark 2008 decision upholding gun rights — could not define the reach of that right was telling. Now, three years after his death, the court appears ready to put some teeth into an amendment that some justices say gets no respect.
The case, on tap to be heard this fall, challenges obscure New York City rules that prevent gun owners from transporting their weapons outside the city, whether to second homes or shooting ranges. There’s nothing else like it among state and local gun restrictions.
Yet from such outliers are major Supreme Court decisions of national import often born. And here, the court’s conservative justices could clarify that all gun restrictions must clear a high bar, or state that the right to bear arms extends beyond the home.
“This could be a huge decision,” says Adam Winkler, author of “Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America” and a UCLA School of Law professor. “This case is going to end badly for gun violence prevention advocates.”
Gun control groups are so worried about the court’s direction on the Second Amendment that they would prefer to see New York City change the challenged rules. That could render the case moot and prevent the court from hearing it.