Sacramento California, August 26, 2019: Americans Against Gun Violence has filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in support of New York City in the Supreme Court case of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association (NYRPA) v. New York City. In this case, the NYRPA is claiming that New York City’s ban on carrying handguns anywhere other than to or from city-approved firing ranges violates the Second Amendment, as the Supreme Court interpreted the Amendment in the 2008 Heller decision. Although New York City has agreed to change its handgun laws to make the case moot, the NYRPA has refused to drop the case.
In the Heller decision, a narrow 5-4 majority of the Court reversed over 200 years of legal precedent, including four prior Supreme Court decisions and scores of lower court decisions, in ruling that Washington DC’s partial handgun ban violated the Second Amendment. Heller was the first time in U.S. history that the Court had ever ruled that the Second Amendment conferred any kind of individual right to gun ownership that was not directly related to service in a “well regulated militia.”
The majority opinion in Heller, written by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, has been publicly condemned by respected constitutional authorities as a “radical departure” from prior legal precedent, an example of “snow jobs” produced by well-staffed justices, and “gun rights propaganda passing as scholarship.” In his book, The Making of a Justice, the late Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens wrote, “Heller is unquestionably the most clearly incorrect decision that the Court announced during my tenure on the bench.” Stevens added that Hellerdecision was consistent with an interpretation of the Second Amendment that the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger had called, “One of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word, ‘fraud,’ on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”
But the Heller decision is worse than all this. By creating a constitutional obstacle, where none previously existed, to the enactment of stringent gun control laws in the United States comparable to the laws that have long been in effect in every other high income democratic country of the world – countries in which mass shootings are rare or non-existent and in which the rate of gun deaths is, on average, one tenth the rate in the United States – Heller is effectively a death sentence for tens of thousands of Americans annually.
In our amicus brief, Americans Against Gun Violence is calling on the Supreme Court to take the opportunity of the case of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. New York City to reverse the Heller decision. Americans Against Gun Violence is one of only three gun violence prevention organizations to file an amicus brief in support of New York City in this case, and we are the only organization to make the point that Heller was wrongly decided and should be overturned.