The US Supreme court declined on Monday to hear 10 cases seeking to overturn restrictions on gun ownership, disappointing some conservative critics.
The 10 cases, spanning six circuits, five states and the District of Columbia, all sought to expand gun owners’ rights under the Second Amendment. The denial may signal a reluctance by the conservative majority court to weigh in on cases where state and local governments enact laws to regulate, or ban in some instances, the ownership of certain firearms.
In Thomas Rogers, et al. v. Gurbir Grewal, Attorney General of New Jersey (the only case in which Justice Clarence Thomas, joined in part by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, wrote a dissent), Douglas Ciolek v. New Jersey, and in Mark Cheeseman v. Joseph Polillo, Chief of Police, City of Glassboro, New Jersey, et al., the petitioners generally all sought to overturn New Jersey laws that require handgun owners to acquire permits to possess and carry. Thomas took issue with the “justifiable need” requirement of the New Jersey law, which forces gun owners to “specify in detail the urgent necessity for self-protection, as evidenced by specific threats or previous attacks which demonstrate a special danger to the applicant’s life that cannot be avoided by means other than by issuance of a permit to carry a handgun.” Thomas reiterated his position that many courts have resisted the Supreme Court’s decisions in previous Second Amendment cases by implementing a two-step analysis that utilizes “tiers of scrutiny on a sliding scale” and is “entirely made up.” Specifically, Thomas saw the Rogers case as “the ideal opportunity to at least begin analyzing which restrictions are consistent with the historical scope of the right to bear arms.”
Likewise, in Maryland, Brian K. Malpasso, et al., v. William M. Pallozzi (the Maryland Secretary of State Police), petitioners sought to invalidate a state law that requires applicants to supply strong evidence of a concrete risk that sets them apart from an average person before becoming eligible to obtain a permit to carry a firearm.
The petitioners in Michael Gould, et al., v. Andrew Lipson, et al., and David S. Worman, et al., v. Maura T. Healey, Attorney General of Massachusetts, et al., sought to challenge Massachusetts laws that ban high-capacity magazines and assault weapons.
The two cases denied out of Illinois, Kevin W. Culp, et al., v. Kwame Raoul, Attorney General of Illinois, et al., and Matthew C. Wilson, et al., v. Cook County, Illinois, et al., challenged two separate laws. The petitioners in Culp attempted to challenge a statewide ban on non-residents obtaining concealed carry licenses in Illinois. The Petitioners in Wilson sought to overturn a Cook County ban of assault-style weapons that incorporate one or more specific features.
In a case from California, petitioners unsuccessfully challenged the state’s Unsafe Handgun Act, which bans certain handguns and requires manufacturers of newer guns to provide specific information about how the guns operate. This effectively cements the lower court’s holding in favor of the Act’s restrictions, which some scholars have described as an opinion that “blatantly defies” the Supreme Court’s 2007 holding in District of Columbia v. Heller. However, recently, another California law that requires background checks for all ammunition purchases has been blocked, pending the outcome of a separate case.
Finally, in Frederic Mance Jr., et al., v. William Barr, et al., petitioners attempted to challenge a Washington, DC, interstate handgun transfer law that requires all DC residents who seek to purchase a handgun to utilize a DC-based transfer service that will physically receive the weapon from an out-of-state dealer before transferring physical custody to the resident. In this case, petitioners were members of a gun rights advocacy group that traveled to Texas with the intent to immediately take possession of the weapons, without utilizing the legally required middleman. Initially, the Texas District Court sided with petitioners. However, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth ultimately overturned the ruling. Attorney General William Barr argued in favor of the Fifth Circuit’s reversal, arguing that the petitioners failed to raise certain arguments at the trial level and on appeal, as well as citing Heller to support the proposition that “laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms” may be consistent with the text and history of the Second Amendment.
The sweeping denial of certiorari in these cases represents a signal that the majority of the Supreme Court is satisfied with the ways in which the appellate courts now interpret the decade old precedents set forth in Second Amendment cases like Heller, and McDonald v. City of Chicago.