Supreme court to hear new gun case over New York’s tough gun laws

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear two major gun cases from New York that will test whether states and cities have the right to pass laws regulating firearm sales, collection of weapons and…

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear two major gun cases from New York that will test whether states and cities have the right to pass laws regulating firearm sales, collection of weapons and ownership.

Nine years ago the supreme court ruled, in McDonald v Johnson, that the right to own handguns in one’s home is implicit in the right to bear arms under the second amendment. Since then, gun control advocates have argued that a significant number of gun laws, such as people having to pass a background check in order to purchase a gun, are on legal ground.

It remains unclear how many gun cases could ultimately wind up in front of the supreme court, but several of them on the subject of New York’s gun laws are making their way through state and federal courts.

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In response to a wave of mass shootings in the United States that have occurred since 2008, New York in 2013 passed its first tough new state gun law in more than a century, known as the SAFE Act. It amended New York state’s ban on civilian possession of assault weapons and expanded the types of guns that are considered banned.

Attorney general Eric Schneiderman, whose office is representing the state in one of the cases before the supreme court, called the court’s decision to hear the appeal “the right result”.

“After 50 years of gun violence, we’re grateful that the supreme court has finally agreed to review this central case that could affect the country,” he said.

The cases involve two men with no criminal history. After failing a background check to purchase a gun in New York, Benjamin Hoskins, a gun collector, tried to sell the weapon to three police officers he intended to pay $1,200 for it. He was sentenced to an additional one-and-a-half years in prison for failing to report the firearms transaction, to which he had waived the reporting requirement.

Deceased musician Robert Bilsborrow Jr took the state to court to challenge the constitutionality of New York’s gun registration system, claiming it prevented him from retaining his collection of more than 120 guns he purchased legally. He also lost his right to possess his collection after filing for bankruptcy.

In June 2014, a federal appeals court rejected his appeal and upheld New York’s requirement for police to obtain a firearm owner’s identification card (FOID), which requires someone seeking to purchase a gun to prove they don’t own a firearm in violation of state law.

Groups pushing for tighter gun control were quick to take note of the court’s decision.

“I am disappointed that the court will hear a case with major implications for our second amendment rights and about which the Supreme Court said so little,” said Garry South, the former president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association. “New York and other states can and should continue to pass laws that make guns harder to get, something the NRA has fought against for decades.

“This is a fight for every American,” South said. “I am confident the court will take this case under oath and declare what the Constitution says. If states are not allowed to keep track of who’s selling what gun, then New York State and others may have to restrict who can own what gun, and that’s not just public safety but our basic right to keep and bear arms.”

Bans on citizens owning “assault weapons” have become a signature part of mass-murder cases in recent years, as the plaintiffs of the Sandy Hook school shooting fought to prevent their weapon from being sold to Connecticut lawmakers.

A CNN/ORC poll last May found that Americans strongly supported the stricter gun laws New York imposed in 2013, and that 47% believed the state’s new laws were effective.

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