Gun Control Groups Quietly Lobbied for Looser Gun Law in Effort to Undermine SCOTUS Case

Defendants argue gun rights case should be dismissed

US Supreme Court / Getty Images
August 21, 2019

Some of the country's leading gun control groups quietly lobbied earlier this summer for a New York law that loosens restrictions on where legal gun owners can take their firearms in order to undermine a pending Supreme Court case, records show.

Everytown for Gun Safety and Giffords both lobbied New York lawmakers on Assembly Bill A07752 and Senate Bill S6151 which allowed law-abiding gun owners to legally transport their firearms to new locations like shooting ranges and competitions, according to New York disclosure records. All but one of the legislatures lobbied by the gun control groups voted to loosen the travel restrictions and preempt a New York City ordinance that's currently the subject of a lawsuit that is being considered by the Supreme Court.

The two gun control groups spent a total of $21,275 between May and June on the lobbyists who influenced the firearms transport bills. Everytown spent an additional $1,275 on lobbyists who influenced the firearms transport bills and other gun-related bills.

Neither Everytown, Giffords, nor a number of the Democrats who were lobbied by the groups would comment on their effort to influence the legislation. The New York State Rifle and Pistol Association (NYSRPA), the gun rights group whose case against the transportation restrictions is currently pending before the Supreme Court, said the groups were trying to undermine the case by advocating for the new transport law.

"They lobbied in favor of the legislation and we think it was hypocritical," Tom King, president of the gun rights group, told the Washington Free Beacon.

Since the Supreme Court announced it would take up New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. City of New York, New York back in January, the defendants have reversed course on their years-long defense of the travel restrictions and attempted to get the case dismissed by changing the law being challenged. Gun control activists have publicly expressed concern the travel restrictions could be struck down as unconstitutional and the ruling could potentially extend beyond the specific law in question to other gun control provisions adopted in a handful of deep blue states.

"A ruling in NYSRPA vs. NYC could overturn not only the city's gun transport reg, but also 'may-issue' laws governing concealed carry of firearms in public in New York and seven other states," Ladd Everitt, director of the gun control group One Pulse for America, wrote in the New York Daily News. "Carry licenses are more difficult to obtain than premises licenses in NYC. Law enforcement officials have discretion to deny carry licenses to applicants with a history of violence. The NRA spent $1 million to get Kavanaugh confirmed to the Supreme Court because they believe he will provide the decisive fifth vote to eliminate such discretion by declaring a new, individual right to carry guns in public."

Similar arguments were used to justify Washington, D.C.’s 2017 decision not to appeal a federal court's ruling that its "may issue" gun carry law was unconstitutional. Gun control activists feared the city's strict gun control law would be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court and set a national precedent recognizing gun rights outside the home. Gun control supporters have only become more concerned about strict gun control laws being thrown out by the Supreme Court after the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.

Lawyers for New York City requested, for the second time, the Supreme Court remove the case from its docket over the change in law late last month. Their first request was strongly opposed by the plaintiffs and not accepted by the court.

Lawyers representing NYSRPA and the other plaintiffs in the case argued to the Court that the city's about-face in regards to the restrictions on gun transportation was a transparent move designed to keep the city from having to defend a decades-old law on its merits.

"For decades, the City of New York imposed numerous restrictions on law-abiding residents that effectively prohibited them from transporting their licensed handguns anywhere beyond seven in-city ranges," they said. "Five years ago, petitioners (three city residents and an association representing handgun owners statewide) challenged that regime, insisting that the Second Amendment gives them a right to transport their licensed handguns to places where they can be lawfully possessed, like second homes, out-of-city ranges, and shooting competitions. For five years, the City actively and successfully defended its regime, ultimately procuring a Second Circuit decision that eliminated meaningful protection for Second Amendment rights. Then this Court granted certiorari, and the City abruptly shifted gears, undertaking a series of extraordinary maneuvers designed to frustrate this Court's review and obviate the City's need even to explain itself in a merits brief."

The lawyers went on to argue the law change doesn’t go far enough to address their core concerns anyway and shouldn’t factor into the court’s decision on whether or not to hear the case.

"The City's efforts culminated in a revised regulation designed to loosen the City's restrictions to the minimum degree necessary to render this litigation moot and a City-procured state law that actually grants the City unique authority to prevent nonresidents from transporting licensed handguns through the city," they argued. "Neither of those changes renders this controversy moot, and each vindicates this Court’s well-grounded skepticism of voluntary cessation of unlawful conduct generally and of 'post certiorari maneuvers designed to insulate a decision from review by this Court' in particular."

The Supreme Court has not yet responded to the latest request to dismiss or remand the case due to the law change.