Kevin Daley on November 28, 2019
The National Sheriffs’ Association is leading a coalition of law enforcement and gun rights groups urging the Supreme Court to strike down New York City’s gun transportation regulations.
The coalition filed an amicus (or “friend of the court”) brief arguing that the city lacks a legitimate public safety rationale for the rule, which prohibits “premise license” holders from carrying their firearms beyond city lines or to any location besides an authorized gun club. The high court will hear a challenge to New York’s regulations on Dec. 2.
“The public safety interest alleged to support the rule is non-existent and unproven,” the brief reads. “There is no proof that premises licensees have ever posed a threat to public safety when transporting their handguns.”
“It is also highly implausible that premises licensees would engage in violence when transporting their handguns out of the city,” the brief adds. “Licensees undergo exceedingly searching inquiries during the application process, and licenses can be refused for even trivial reasons.”
To possess a handgun, New York residents must obtain a premises license. That license restricts possession to the address listed on the license itself. The holder may only transport a firearm to authorized shooting clubs within city limits. The plaintiffs in the Dec. 2 case are three city residents and a firearms advocacy group who wish to carry their guns to vacation homes and marksman competitions outside the five boroughs.
Inspector Andrew Lunetta, who leads the New York City Police Department License Division, said in an affidavit that the restrictive transportation rules are necessary to keep weapons confined in the home, as the premises license requires.
“Investigations have revealed a large volume and pattern of premises license holders who are found in possession of their handguns in violation of the restrictions on their license,” the affidavit reads.
The National Sheriffs’ Association counters that the city should produce specific examples of such violations. City rules require “an investigation and immediate report to the License Division” whenever a license-holder is involved in an incident that draws a police response. As such, the sheriffs group says the NYPD should release those records to prove its claim about wide-spread violations.
Elsewhere in the affidavit, Lunetta warned that striking down the city’s gun transportation rules could make it impossible to enforce any restrictions on guns outside the home as a practical matter. He hypothesized that license-holders carrying guns in public would fabricate an explanation about traveling to a second home or shooting competition if stopped by police officers.
The rigorous application process for a premises license further diminishes the public safety rationale for the transport ban, the Sheriff’s Association says. Among others things, applicants must appear for an in-person interview; return waivers indicating all members of their household consent to having a gun present; and pass criminal and mental health background checks.
The simple fact of passing those reviews shows a license-holder is not the sort of person likely to commit a crime, the brief argues. In that connection, the sheriffs cite a 2009 article in the Connecticut Law Review showing concealed carry permit holders are “vastly more law-abiding than the public at large.”
“Licensees undergo searching scrutiny before obtaining a license, comparable groups of permit holders from other jurisdictions have repeatedly been shown to be far more law-abiding than the population as a whole, and most violent crime is committed by individuals with a criminal history who are ineligible to obtain a license,” the amicus brief reads.
The Trump administration is also supporting the gun rights plaintiffs in Monday’s case.
A federal trial judge and the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled for the city at earlier phases of the litigation. After the high court agreed to take the case, the city amended its transportation rules to provide the relief the plaintiffs sought. City lawyers are now urging the justices to dismiss the case as moot, since the plaintiffs got everything they were seeking in court.
The plaintiffs oppose that course of action. They argue New York could revise its rules again at any time, and lower court decisions upholding the transport ban should be overturned in any event.
The case is No. 18-280 New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. City of New York.
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