Gun control is a hot-button issue these days. And a recent case shows how the First Amendment—not the Second—could play a (small) role.
New York City has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country, making them a target for lawsuits. One of New York’s laws concerns “premises licenses,” which allow a handgun owner to legally possess a handgun within his or her home. If you have one of these “premise licenses,” you can take your handgun out of your home only for specific purposes, including taking it to an authorized gun range within the City.
The New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, a “firearms advocacy organization,” sued New York City, challenging the City’s licensing scheme. They argued that the rule violates their First Amendment right of expressive association by prohibiting them from joining a gun club of their choice outside the city and forcing them to join a gun club within the city.
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Association’s challenge and ruled for the city. The Court found that, while socially/recreationally gathering with others can be protected First Amendment activity, New York’s rule does not prohibit people from joining a gun club outside of the City; it just prohibits people from taking handguns to that gun club. Moreover, the Court did not find that carrying a handgun, by itself, was a form of “expressive activity” entitled to First Amendment protection.
Case: N.Y. State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n, Inc. v. City of New York, No. 15-638 (2d Cir. Feb. 23, 2018) (opinion here)