Imagine if instead of challenging the Redcoats at Lexington and Concord the colonial Minutemen had taken the issue up in the British court system. Does anyone believe that it would have been a more appropriate, more effective, and more successful way of protecting our right to keep and bear arms?
Relying on the court system is a terrible way to protect gun rights.
Although the U.S. Supreme Court has in recent years upheld the basic right to keep and bear arms in some ways, a recent lawsuit shows how inconsistent the court, and that strategy for liberty can be.
According to Self-Reliance Central, SCOTUS declined to hear the case of New York Rifle & Pistol Association v. City of New York, which might have clarified previous high court rulings on the Second Amendment such as District of Columbia v. Heller.
The 2013 lawsuit involved a New York City ordinance severely restricting the ability of gun owners to carry their firearms outside their homes. The city insists the law is constitutional. Further, the city argues that eve even if the law does infringe on “Second Amendment rights,” it is still constitutionally permissible because it’s “necessary to protect the public safety.” In a 6-3 decision, the SCOTUS effectively washed their hands of the case and sent it back down to the lower courts without ruling on the merits.
The city avoided SCOTUS review by slightly amending the law to allow gun owners to carry a firearm to a gun range outside the city limits while maintaining most of the restrictions. The Court determined that the case is now moot since the city changed the law. According to Self Reliance Central, the majority ignored existing precedent.
“Under existing precedent, cases are only declared moot when “it is impossible for a court to grant any effectual relief whatever to the prevailing party.” And the dissenters rightly point out that the amended law did not, in fact, give the petitioners in the case everything they sought.”
While challenging unconstitutional laws that infringe on gun rights is one method of combating tyranny, the courts can’t be trusted to take the right side. This isn’t the first time the Court has punted on a Second Amendment Case. Last year, SCOTUS declined to hear a case involving a Kansas gun rights law.
Also, this isn’t an issue with the Second Amendment, which was only intended to apply to the federal government. Even then, that amendment has been repeatedly violated starting as far back as the 1930s. Those federal gun control laws remain on the books, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) continues to operate even though it has no legal authority to do so.
The reality is that other strategies could have been employed by New Yorkers in the seven years between the time the plaintiffs filed the lawsuit and SCOTUS punted on the issue, whether it’s civil disobedience and mass noncompliance or convincing willing local government officials not to enforce the law. Laws are only as good as they are getting people to obey them, and when there is significant opposition, laws tend to either get ignored or repealed.
Waiting for the courts to make things right is like sitting in the desert waiting for an oasis to appear. It might, but you shouldn’t stake your life, or your rights, on that happening.