Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas warn that New York’s sweeping new gun law raises serious constitutional questions despite the high court’s decision not to intercede while court challenges play out.
The Supreme Court last week issued an order allowing New York to continue enforcing the banning of guns from “sensitive places,” such as schools and playgrounds, while a federal appeals court prepares to hear arguments challenging the law.
Alito and Thomas, two of the Supreme Court’s most conservative members, issued a statement with the order saying the law “presents novel and serious questions under both the First and the Second Amendments.”
“Applicants should not be deterred by today’s order from again seeking relief” if the appeals court doesn’t move swiftly or explain its actions, Alito wrote, joined by Thomas.
Gun owners wanted the Supreme Court to lift a federal appeals court order that temporarily put on hold a lower court decision blocking portions of the law, CNN reported.
Thomas in June authored the high court’s New York State Rifle & Pistol, Inc. v. Bruen decision that struck down a New York law regulating who is allowed to carry a concealed weapon in public. The state then rewrote the law.
Now, there are four Second Amendment-related challenges to that law at the federal appeals court level. The 2nd Circuit, which holds a 7-6 Democratic-led majority, announced Friday it would hear arguments March 20 against several provisions in New York’s law.
Wednesday’s short unsigned Supreme Court order deferred to the 2nd Circuit, which in December eliminated a pause on several portions of the law after a federal district court judge struck down most of the law’s provisions on Nov. 7, the Washington Examiner reported.
Alito and Thomas said the high court’s order was to “reflect respect for the 2nd Circuit’s procedures in managing its own docket,” and in no way expressed views on the merits of the challenges brought by firearms proponents.
Josh Blackman, a professor at the South Texas College of Law, told the Examiner that the high court’s decision not to take up the appeal from the 2nd Circuit was unsurprising given the Bruen precedent isn’t even six months old.
“So I think what Alito was saying is, yes, this will take some time to work its way through the system. But the 2nd Circuit should be very mindful that they can’t just sort of ignore Bruen; they have to sort of grapple with its decision,” Blackman said.
Blackman told the Examiner that lower federal courts often try to read Second Amendment precedents narrowly, adding that he doesn’t think “lower courts are going to like Bruen, especially in places like New York and New Jersey.”
“What’s new is that if the 2nd Circuit completely botches Bruen, the Supreme Court may intervene early,” Blackman told the Examiner. “So I think there’s an incentive for the 2nd Circuit to take very carefully what’s in Bruen and not just sort of rely on old precedents.”
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