The Supreme Court has decided not to intervene in the case against New York’s latest gun-carry restrictions. At least, not yet.
On Wednesday, the Court ruled against an emergency request from gun-rights activists looking to remove a Second Circuit stay on a ruling against New York’s Concealed Carry Improvement Act (CCIA). The decision allows New York to continue enforcing the expansive restrictions on who can carry firearms and where they can take them for the immediate future. Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, said the decision not to get involved reflected deference to the lower court’s proceedings rather than an endorsement of the law.
“I understand the Court’s denial today to reflect respect for the Second Circuit’s procedures in managing its own docket, rather than expressing any view on the merits of the case,” Alito wrote in Antonyuk v. Nigrelli.
The decision means that New York can continue to enforce provisions of the CCIA District Judge Glenn Suddaby found unconstitutional, including a subjective “good moral character” requirement for applicants and numerous novel restrictions on where those with licenses can take their guns. It is a setback for gun-rights activists who wanted to stop the implementation of the law after their win in front of Suddaby. Both sides will now have to wait a while longer to reach a final conclusion on New York’s restrictions, which were passed as a direct rebuttal to the Supreme Court’s 2022 ruling in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen.
However, they may not have to wait very long. That’s because, as Alito pointed out, while the Second Circuit has stayed lower court decisions on the CCIA, it is also fast-tracking some of them.
“With one exception, the Second Circuit issued a stay of the injunction in full, and in doing so did not provide any explanation for its ruling,” Alito wrote. “In parallel cases presenting related issues, the Second Circuit has likewise issued unreasoned summary stay orders, but in those cases it has ordered expedited briefing.”
He also noted the CCIA raises significant legal questions that the Court has yet to fully explore.
“The New York law at issue in this application presents novel and serious questions under both the First and the Second Amendments,” Alito wrote. “The District Court found, in a thorough opinion, that the applicants were likely to succeed on a number of their claims, and it issued a preliminary injunction as to twelve provisions of the challenged law.”
The procedural decision is the first to deal directly with a gun-control law passed in the wake of Bruen. It has been just over six months since the Court recognized the right to carry a gun outside the home and handed down a new stringent test for deciding the constitutionality of gun laws. While the Court decided not to act in removing the Second Circuit’s Antonyuk stay, Alito noted applicants should consider reapplying if the Second Circuit doesn’t act quickly.
“Applicants should not be deterred by today’s order from again seeking relief if the Second Circuit does not, within a reasonable time, provide an explanation for its stay order or expedite consideration of the appeal,” he wrote.
UPDATE 1-11-2023 1:13 PM EASTERN: This piece has been corrected to show that, unlike the other CCIA challenges, the Second Circuit has not fast-tracked the Antonyuk case.