The US Supreme Court's consideration of a major gun rights case could end in a misfire, with the justices on Monday (December 2) debating whether to dismiss a challenge backed by the powerful National Rifle Association to a New York City handgun ordinance. The justices heard arguments in the first major gun dispute to come before them since 2010, with gun control advocates fearful that the court, with its 5-4 conservative majority, could issue a ruling further expanding firearms rights nationwide.
Much of the arguments focused on whether the court should even decide the merits of the legal challenge because the city in July got rid of the limits imposed on licensed gun owners on where they could take their firearms that were central to the legal challenge.
The four liberal justices indicated support for declaring the case moot because New York amended the measure.
The dispute centers on New York City's handgun "premises" licenses.
Transport rules had been tightened in 2001 after New York police observed gun license holders improperly traveling with loaded firearms or with their firearms far from any authorized range.
The challengers contend that the amended regulation is still deficient because it requires all handgun transport to be "continuous and uninterrupted," potentially putting owners at legal risk if they take a coffee break en route.
Hundreds of gun control supporters demonstrated outside the courthouse Monday, calling gun violence a public health crisis.
Gun control is a contentious issue in the United States, which has experienced a series of mass shootings.
A ruling expanding firearms owners' rights could jeopardize hundreds of gun control laws passed in recent years by state and local governments, including expanded background checks and confiscations of weapons from individuals who a court has deemed dangerous, according to gun violence prevention advocates.