SCOTUS Hears Case Challenging Liberal Gun Laws
Efrain Alvarez had filed for the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) to hear a case against New York and their regulation that limited where New Yorkers could transport their guns to. He was two weeks away from a hearing when police showed up at his apartment and took away all his firearms.
Upon entering, they forced him to open his two steel gun vaults. They proceeded to confiscate around 45 weapons, including five handguns.
“I’m still numb about it,” the 64-year-old retired city bus driver said of the August 2018 seizure. “It’s my lifelong collection.”
To add insult to injury, the officers then arrested Alvarez, charged him with filing a report over a claim that one of his handguns had been stolen, a misdemeanor under New York law. This resulted in the handgun license that Alvarez, along with others, was challenging in the Supreme Court, being suspended again, this is the second time this has been done in the last ten years.
This seems to be stemming from what is turning out to be the most significant gun rights case since 2010. The justices are set to hear arguments on this next week on Monday. The challenge is backed by the NRA (National Rifle Association.
New York set up the regulation to halt the ability to transport handguns to shooting ranges within city limits but did have a right to use the weapons during designated hunting times. The lawsuit claims that the law violates the U.S. Constitution’s second amendment right to both keep and bear arms.
The city tried to get SCOTUS to drop the case, they went as far as changing the law to include transporting handguns outside New York City, yet the Supreme Court refused to budge on this, moved the case forward over objections from New York who were claiming the matter was now moot.
New York Rifle and Pistol Association, a state affiliate of the national NRA, filed the lawsuit in 2013 with Alvarez and two other gun owners as plaintiffs. This was done after authorities told the men that the regulation prevented them from participating in a shooting competition in New Jersey or bring their guns to their second home or anyplace else in the state.
Alvarez said he joined the suit because he thought it was ridiculous that he could own a handgun but not travel to compete with it.
He and the other two gun owners are described as “law-abiding residents of New York City” in the lawsuit. Alvarez does not think that his legal problems make this in any way awkward or inappropriate for him to challenge the regulation.
“My suspension has nothing to do with my fight in court,” Alvarez said in an interview.
One could wonder about this, could his suspension have been due to his fight in court, could New York be responding to the fact that he dared to challenge their law in court?
He went on to say he accepted a deal by the Bronx district attorney’s office to drop the charge in six months if he was not arrested again. Rather than fight this in court, he chose to take the plea deal.
Brian Stapleton, an attorney for the case said in regards to the plea deal taken, “It has no impact on this case whatsoever.”
Describing himself as a supporter of gun control measures like vigorous background checks, Alvarez said he hopes the ruling in his case does not undermine other firearms restrictions.
“If a bad apple grabs a gun and he does something stupid, it kind of falls on me because I’m part of what’s going on. So it would kind of hit a sore spot,” added Alvarez, who said he admires the NRA but disagrees with some of its policies.
SUPREME COURT PRECEDENT
The case was appealed up to the Supreme Court after a lower court found the Second Amendment was not violated by the regulation, citing this as a protection of the city’s interest in protecting public safety.
This was brought forward to see if SCOTUS’s ruling in 2008, granting the right for an individual to keep guns in their home for self-defense. In 2010, the court extended this right to override state and local laws as well.
“I hope that they clarify that the right to possess a firearm outside the home is as important and fundamental as the right to possess one inside the home,” Stapleton said.
Gun control advocates fear that the conservative-majority Supreme Court could use the case to expand gun rights and threaten a wide array of gun control measures nationwide, such as expanded background checks and “red flag” laws targeting the firearms of people deemed dangerous by the courts.
“I don’t think there’s any question that, if given the opportunity, the NRA and its allies will try to re-challenge laws that have already been upheld and certainly challenge any new laws,” said Eric Tirschwell, managing director of litigation at Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control lobby group that receives funding from Democratic presidential candidate and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Born and raised in New York, Alvarez is affable and blunt. He has been a gun enthusiast since serving in the U.S. National Guard decades ago. He said he became an avid hunter and started competitive shooting, winning several awards.
Alvarez’s August 2018 arrest came after police said he falsely reported a .38 caliber revolver had been stolen by two men he claimed had fooled him by posing as police officers. The saga led police to suspend his handgun license and confiscate his firearms, he said. The New York Police Department declined to discuss Alvarez’s case.
“Everybody who owns a firearm in New York City should have the right to take that firearm to his property, and out of the city to go shooting,” Alvarez’s said. “We’re not looking for anything else as far as I’m concerned.”
It needs to be clarified that under New York state law, and all other states in the US, while felonies can prohibit one from ownership or use of a firearm, misdemeanors don’t, this brings to question, then by what right does the city or state go in and seize private property?