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Supreme Court Update

Supreme Court Reverses Decision to Review New York City’s Law on Handgun Transport — Enables the Court to Directly Address More Far-Reaching Second Amendment Violations

In our February 7, 2019 blog post entitled Supreme Court Update, we reported on the Supreme Court’s grant of certiorari in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. City of New York, No. 18-280 (hereinafter “NYSRPA”).  NYSRPA is a case from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in which the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association challenged New York City’s restrictions on transporting a licensed, unloaded, cased-for-transport handgun to a home or shooting range located outside the city limits.  While the Court’s most recent action in the case is no longer “fresh” news, we want to update you on it, because it enables the Court to directly address more far-reaching Second Amendment violations like the adoption of so-called “assault firearms” bans.  

On April 27, 2020, the Supreme Court terminated as moot its review of the plaintiff Association’s request for declaratory and injunctive relief banning the city’s enforcement of the law, because while the case was pending in the Supreme Court, the City of New York amended the law to allow citizens to transport handguns to a home or shooting range outside the city.  

We are not disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision to cease review of the lower courts’ denial of injunctive and declaratory relief, because the New York City law under review, while unconstitutional, did not provide the Court with a good opportunity to directly address and resolve the most important Second Amendment issues facing the country today.  For example, earlier this year, the Commonwealth of Virginia attempted to pass a ban on so-called “assault firearms,” which failed in the Virginia Senate.  Virginia’s proposed ban encompassed commonly-owned and used single-shot, semi-automatic rifles and shotguns and standard-capacity magazines used with them and with commonly-owned semi-automatic handguns.  The failed bill(s) may be revived in a special legislative session that has been called for August 2020 or, if not, are likely to be re-introduced in the Virginia General Assembly’s 2021 session.  

If Virginia passes its proposed assault firearms ban, the law will be open to a constitutional challenge which addresses the fundamental reason for passage of the Second Amendment:  To enable individual citizens to take up arms against their own government – if the government ceases adherence to the Constitution – on at least a minimally equal footing with the government’s forces.  This is a highly controversial and seldom-ventilated issue in Second Amendment case law, but one that Stephen L. Sulzer PLLC and the NFLI are fully equipped to address when the need arises.  (See “Look Out Below” – our January 8, 2019 blog entry – for an important exposition on this aspect of the Second Amendment.)  

Virginia’s adoption of its proposed assault firearms ban would enable the Supreme Court to directly address the full scope of (and fundamental reasons for) the Second Amendment’s guarantee of the people’s right to possess and carry commonly-owned and used firearms, including single-shot, semi-automatic rifles and shotguns and standard-capacity magazines used with them and with commonly-owned semi-automatic handguns, which Virginia seeks to ban.

Stay tuned for further developments.

Stephen L. Sulzer
Mr. Sulzer has been practicing law in Washington, D.C., for 40 years and has been a partner at some of the city’s most prominent national law firms, including Steptoe & Johnson and, most recently, California-based Manatt, Phelps & Phillips. In fall 2013, Mr. Sulzer broke away from Big Law to found his own law firm, and after much planning and preparation, expanded his practice to encompass firearms-related matters. He is particularly focused on criminal and civil defense work for clients who have had to use firearms in self-defense. He has also expanded into matters involving federal and state firearms regulation, as well as Second Amendment-based litigation. Mr. Sulzer has an AV Preeminent Peer and Judicial Rating from Martindale Hubbell, the highest rating given by Martindale-Hubbell for legal skills and professional ethics. Mr. Sulzer is pleased to have been selected as a referral attorney for both the United States Concealed Carry Association and the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network. Mr. Sulzer has developed a two-part training course entitled “The Legal Use of Firearms for Self-Defense in Virginia – When the Defensive Use of Firearms Is Permissible and How to Win the Legal Battle That Will Follow.” For the past five years, Mr. Sulzer has taught the course regularly in northern Virginia at the Nation’s Gun Show in Chantilly and Fredericksburg (through Historic Arms Corp.’s Firearms Training Store), at Silver Eagle Group in Ashburn; at Fairfax Rod & Gun Club in Manassas; and at The Gun Dude in Falls Church. The course has received enthusiastic reviews from the northern Virginia shooting community and has become the gold standard for those who carry concealed or rely on firearms for home security and self-defense. Mr. Sulzer is now offering the course live online through the National Firearms Law Institute. He is also developing an online version of the course covering the law of self-defense in several mid-atlantic and southeastern states and will ultimately cover the law in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Mr. Sulzer has also expanded NFLI’s course offerings with a new course on Virginia’s 2020 gun control legislation and a short course on insurance coverage and other programs available to protect your finances if you are involved in a self-defense incident. Mr. Sulzer has been active in the shooting sports dating back to the mid-1990s, when he began shooting service rifles in competition against the Marine Corps Rifle Teams and the Army Marksmanship Unit. He began his competitive shooting career with the M1A and transitioned to the AR-15 in 2000. He competed in three position “across the course” iron sight matches at distances of 200, 300, and 600 yards, and has also competed at 1,000 yards. When Mr. Sulzer retired from competition in 2005, he was shooting Master level scores. He still shoots handguns (particularly M-1911s) avidly, has held a Virginia Concealed Carry Permit since the late 1990s, and is an NRA-certified pistol instructor.
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