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Supreme Court questions whether to enter gun debate as calls for tighter limits


Washington – Two mass shootings in Georgia and Colorado last month brought gun control back to the forefront of public debate, with Democrats in Congress and President Biden calling for swift legislative action.

But amid public outcry over gun violence, the nine members of the Supreme Court meet behind closed doors to discuss whether to add to the next term’s gun regulation disputes, a decision of the judges which may have far-reaching implications for federal and state gun restrictions.

The High Court could say as early as mid-April whether it will hear cases concerning the constitutionality of permits to carry handguns concealed in public or the right of convicted felons to possess firearms, and gun rights advocates to Fire – and some of the justices themselves – argue the Supreme Court is long overdue to define the scope of the Second Amendment.

“[T]The nation is divided, with the Second Amendment alive and well in the vast midst of the nation, and those same rights ignored near the coasts, ”said Paul Clement, the former solicitor general who represents gun owners challenging the New York licensing rules. Supreme Court on file last month. “Whatever the drafters intend to devote the Second Amendment to our Charter of Fundamental Freedoms and guarantee the right to keep and bear arms ” to all “ the people ”, it was not a question of tolerating a divided nation. on such an important issue. “

Already scheduled for discussion by the judges at two of its closed-door conferences, the New York case involves the state’s ban on carrying handguns concealed in public without a license. But to obtain a license, an applicant must demonstrate a “legitimate cause” and a “special need for self-protection distinct from that of the community in general or of persons exercising the same profession”.

Two New York residents, joined by the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, challenged the ban after their requests for a license to carry a handgun concealed in public were denied. Gun owners argue the law violates their Second Amendment right to bear guns, but lower courts have upheld the rules.

Now they have asked the Supreme Court to decide whether the Second Amendment allows the government to prohibit citizens from carrying handguns concealed outside the house in self-defense.

“A lot of people in America are finally hoping that legislative action will be taken to prevent gun violence. Meanwhile, it looks like the court is going to move in the direction of making gun regulation more difficult,” Hannah Shearer, director of the Giffords Law Center litigation, told CBS News. “It’s a key part of the conversation that may not have garnered so much attention.”

It’s been a decade since the Supreme Court issued its last landmark decisions in Second Amendment disputes, much to the chagrin of gun rights advocates who argue that further action regarding the scope of the Second Amendment is needed.

In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects the right to have guns in the home for self-defense, and in 2010, the court ruled that the right to bear arms applies to states. As the Supreme Court heard arguments in 2019 in a challenge to a New York City rule limiting where licensed handgun owners could carry their locked and unloaded firearms, judges dismissed the case last year after the boundaries were changed.

The Supreme Court then dismissed a host of challenges to state gun restrictions in June, though many believe the decade-long wait for a ruling may be drawing to an end.

Shearer said the reluctance of the high court in his last term to accept a Second Amendment case could have rested on Chief Justice John Roberts, whose fifth vote to overturn a contested rule may not have been a sure thing. But the appointment of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to take the seat of the late Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg diluted Roberts’ influence, with the court’s Conservative majority dropping to 6-3.

“Now that Judge Barrett is on the court as another reliable vote in the Conservative leadership on the Second Amendment cases, it could mean that the floodgates are on and the court is starting to more openly review Second Amendment rulings,” she declared.

Jonathan Adler, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University, said he expects the next gun regulations to be brought to the Supreme Court to be “outliers.”

“The likelihood of a sweeping, sweeping gun decision that erases or restricts gun regulations across the country is unlikely,” he said.

Adler noted that the New York City transportation rule reviewed by judges in 2019 was different from other gun regulations, and he predicted that even a decision on carrying firearms to the exterior of the house could be restrictive, such as the court ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008 was. .

As supporters on both sides of the gun debate expect the Supreme Court to end its long drought and rule on a Second Amendment case, the question remains whether it will be ‘a case involving concealed port licensing rules, like the New York case, or the rights of convicts for possession of firearms.

Judges are due to discuss at their private conference next week the case of Ken Flick, a Georgia man convicted of copyright infringement and smuggling for importing counterfeit tapes in 1987. Due to his felony convictions, Flick is prohibited under federal law from owning firearms.

“[W]While legislatures have wide latitude in defining crimes and classifying them as crimes, they are not free to kick people out of the protection of the Constitution, ”Flick’s attorneys told the Supreme Court in their petition urging judges to hear the case.

Barrett’s rise to the Supreme Court could increase the likelihood of judges resuming the disarmament of criminals dispute, as she drafted a dissent in 2019 while sitting on the U.S. Circuit’s 7th Court of Appeals in a dispute involving the same law at issue in the Flick case.

This case, often cited in his confirmation hearing, involved Rickey Kanter, who pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and, due to his felony conviction, was prohibited from owning a firearm. under Federal and Wisconsin law.

While the 7th Circuit declared Kanter’s challenge to the constitutionality of federal law “without merit,” Barrett disagreed.

“In the absence of evidence that he belongs to a dangerous category or bears individual risk markers, permanently banning Kanter from owning a firearm violates the Second Amendment,” she wrote.

Supreme Court ruling on whether to address Second Amendment scope comes as Congressional Democrats renew calls for tougher gun laws after shootings in the Atlanta area and Boulder . While Mr Biden has urged lawmakers to act, he is set to announce executive action to reduce violence on Thursday.

Shearer noted that any Supreme Court ruling would apply to measures approved by lawmakers and could limit legislative options open not only to Congress, but to state legislatures as well.

“It is important that lawmakers and advocates pay attention to what the court is doing and also know what regulations are still possible,” she said. “No one so far has come up with any sort of compelling interpretation that would not allow for a background check, which is the basic proposition in Congress. The Second Amendment shouldn’t be an obstacle to that no matter what. what the Supreme Court does. “

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