New York City officials act as if the Second Amendment does not apply to them. They made it illegal to transport a licensed, locked, and unloaded handgun to a home or shooting range outside of city limits. This regulation is inconsistent with the text, history, and tradition of the Second Amendment. New York City’s transportation ban is unconstitutional and it must be overturned.
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For years, New York City has required residents to apply for and receive a “premises license,” in order to possess a handgun in their homes for self-defense. The license is so-named because the license strictly limits licensees’ ability to possess and transport their handguns.
Under New York City’s licensing scheme, a premises licensee is only allowed to possess a handgun within their home or business, or en route to one of the seven shooting ranges located within city limits. When transporting the handgun, the firearm must be unloaded and locked in a container, separate from its ammunition. The licensee cannot transport the firearm to a residence outside of the city. The licensee cannot transport the handgun to a range or competition located outside the city.
Essentially, New York City’s licensing scheme attempts to limit the right to keep and bear arms to the barest reading of the Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008). There the Supreme Court specified that the Second Amendment protects the individual right to self-defense, but specifically held that “the District’s ban on handgun possession in the home violated the Second Amendment, as does its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense.”
Unfortunately, due to the narrowness of the Supreme Court’s specific holding, many jurisdictions have seen this as an opportunity to prohibit, restrict, and regulate the possession of firearms other than handguns and in areas other than the home. Many courts have upheld such regulations. New York City’s premises license law was an attempt to “comply” with Heller, but only in the strictest sense possible.
New York City’s interpretation of Heller, however, is flawed. By adopting the narrowest possible interpretation, city officials fail to grasp the true test set forth by the Supreme Court, and do not honor the text of the Second Amendment, as well as the history and tradition of firearm regulations.
In reality, the Supreme Court specifically charged courts to assess Second Amendment challenges under the text, history, and tradition test, not an interest-balancing approach. By looking to the text of the Second Amendment, as well as analogous protections, and pre-founding and post-ratification historical and traditional regulation, courts can properly determine the constitutionality of the challenged law.
This case gives the Supreme Court the opportunity to reinforce its previous holdings and remind the lower courts that they must zealously protect our natural and fundamental right to keep and bear arms.