Supreme Court Denies Emergency Relief in New York Gun Law Case

In June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Americans have a constitutional right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense. This decision struck down a New York gun law that imposed a “proper cause” requirement for getting an unrestricted license to carry a concealed firearm. New York responded by enacting the Concealed Carry Improvement Act.

Taking effect last fall, the CCIA signaled the state’s continued commitment to restricting firearms. Among other things, it enhanced requirements for concealed carry permits and safe storage, imposed background checks on ammunition purchases, and banned firearms in certain sensitive places, such as churches, parks, daycares, airports, buses, and theaters. Gun owners and firearm dealers lost no time in attacking the law as a violation of the Second Amendment. They have criticized New York Governor Kathy Hochul and the legislature for disrespecting the Supreme Court’s authority over constitutional interpretation. An attorney representing the firearm dealers even likened gun rights initiatives to the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

The firearm dealers have argued that the new law has prevented them from selling handguns and related accessories, seriously harming their businesses. As a result, they sought a form of emergency relief called a preliminary injunction. When a court issues a preliminary injunction, it orders someone involved in an ongoing case to do something (or not do something) until the case is resolved. In this case, the firearm dealers wanted a preliminary injunction to block the enforcement of the provisions of the CCIA that they are challenging.

A judge in a federal trial court declined to issue the preliminary injunction. The firearm dealers appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which is the federal appellate court for the New York region. After the Second Circuit also turned down their request, they went to the Supreme Court. Last week, though, the Supreme Court denied the injunction without an explanation.

This does not necessarily mean that a majority of the Supreme Court thinks that the new law is constitutional, or that the firearm dealers will not succeed in their lawsuit. The Court did not offer an opinion on the merits of their arguments. As a result, the case will continue proceeding through the lower federal courts, but with the New York law fully intact for now. It may well go before the Supreme Court eventually.

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