The Year Ahead in Firearms Law and the Second Amendment

  • Date:
  • January 02, 2020

Before looking forward to the big cases, issues, and expectations for the year ahead in firearms law, we’d like to highlight the Center for Firearms Law’s achievements this past year. After launching in February, we hosted a roundtable discussion with historians of English and Irish history, held the first ever Firearms Law Works-in-Progress Workshop, and organized a symposium on Guns Rights and Regulation Outside the Home. We sponsored panels with distinguished scholars on diverse topics like the anti-tyranny view of the Second Amendment, the Supreme Court and the Second Amendment, extreme risk (aka “red flag”) laws, guns and domestic violence, and more. We launched this blog and have had guest posts from a dozen other experts so far. During the Court’s new Term, we started a weekly SCOTUS Gun Watch to track all the cases about firearms law or the Second Amendment pending before the Court. In the last month, we covered the oral arguments in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. City of New York on this blog, in numerous media outlets, and in a terrific and engaging discussion with Nina Totenberg in Washington, D.C. This year was, in short, a remarkable one for the Center. We expect the next year to be even better.

2020 also promises to be a watershed year for firearms law. We expect a decision in the Supreme Court’s first major Second Amendment case in a decade, and it would not at all be surprising for the Court to take another case (especially if it determines that NYSRPA is moot). Several major issues are raised in pending cert petitions, such as the constitutionality of “good cause” laws for public carry permits & bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and how and whether prohibited persons can raise as-applied challenges to the federal laws indefinitely barring their firearm possession. Some or all of those issues are likely to be resolved or at least taken up this year. And we may get the Supreme Court’s stamp of approval or sign of rejection for the ubiquitous two-part framework and concomitant embrace or distancing from the alternative text, history, and tradition approach.

Outside the Supreme Court, other issues will likely continue to gain traction and attention in the next year. The spread of extreme risk (red flag) laws across the country will probably continue. Civil lawsuits arising from urban gun violence, diversion of illegal guns, and mass shootings are scheduled to proceed to discovery. The demand among young people and others for greater gun regulations shows no signs of stopping. And the proliferation of a backlash movement among gun rights supporters to create Second Amendment sanctuary cities, counties, and towns will likely proceed apace. These latter popular movements in fact echo one of the major substantive debates that I expect to occupy a lot of scholarly, public, and judicial attention in the next year: the conflict/intersection between the Second Amendment and competing rights, interests, and values.

In this next year, we’ll be here covering all these issues and continuing to bring together scholars of diverse backgrounds and perspectives to understand, assess, and explain them.