Supreme Court Hears New York City Gun Travel Ban Case
The Supreme Court of the United States recently heard oral argument on a case from New York in which a law banned people from transporting a licensed gun outside of the city limits. Specifically, Romolo Colantone, Efrain Alvarez, and Jose Anthony Irizarry (all licensed gun owners), along with the NRA, challenged the ban and argued that the restriction on traveling with weapons results in Constitutional violations of the Second Amendment, the Commerce Clause, and the right to travel. If the petitioners in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. City of New York, New York are successful, the decision in this case could impact New Jersey law concerning transportation of firearms.
Can New York City Ban Gun Owners from Traveling Outside of the City with a Firearm?
The Supreme Court must decide whether New York’s City’s ban on restricting travel with a firearm is permissible under the Constitution. The question before the court arose because New York City requires any gun owner to be licensed within the city limits and the gun owner’s license only permits them to possess a firearm within the city’s jurisdiction. Simply put, a gun owner in New York cannot legally travel outside of their city limits without violating the law, even if the firearm is licensed, locked, and unloaded.
Under this law, gun owners cannot travel beyond the city limits in which their residences are located. The petitioners argued that the restriction violates their constitutional rights in that it:
1) Interferes with their Second Amendment rights
2) Restricts their right to travel from place to place; and
3) Interferes with commerce.
This is because if, for example, a New York City resident leaves the city limits to travel to a gun range or a vacation home, they would technically be in violation of the law. This seemingly innocent restriction obviously impacts the person’s Constitutional rights. It may even limit their ability to be adequately trained with the firearm. The Second Amendment allows for possession of a weapon for the purpose of militia. Being part of a militia obviously requires adequate training and if adequate training is not within the city limits, it can be argued that the owners’ rights are thus violated.
The petitioners also argued that under the constitution, they have the right to travel. Therefore, by restricting movement with a firearm to within the city of licensing, the government has violated an individual’s right to travel. The residents argue that there should be no restriction on their ability to travel, regardless of each state’s desire to impose restrictions on gun owners.
Lastly, the plaintiffs argue that the ban interferes with the Commerce Clause. The Commerce Clause does not permit the passage of laws that interfere with the flow of commerce. By containing gun possession and transportation within city limits, the law violates businesses’ rights to conduct commerce, in that only businesses within the given jurisdiction financially benefit. In other words, gun ranges, dealers, and training locations outside of the city cannot make money from New York gun owners if transportation of the firearms is prohibited outside the city.
In response to the lawsuit, Governor Cuomo lifted the ban and argued that the case should be dismissed, as the issue is moot. The petitioners argued that the ban can be put back in place at any time and the issues should therefore be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court agreed and heard oral arguments but has yet to reach a decision in this case. New Jersey residents must await the decision and contemplate how the outcome may impact their rights to bear arms and transport them within and outside of the state.
How can New York Gun Rules Affect New Jersey?
Like New York, New Jersey also limits the manner in which firearms can be transported and the places that a person can transport the firearms. The law outlining how firearms must be transported and where is found in statute section N.J.S.A.2C :39-6. In New Jersey, any firearm that is transported must be unloaded, locked in a case, and locked in the trunk of the automobile or otherwise inaccessible from the passenger compartment. Moreover, a person cannot transport the firearm to locations other than the places specified under the statute.
New Jersey is somewhat similar to New York in that a person does not have the absolute right to transport their firearm anywhere they want. Instead, New Jersey only allows a person to transport a gun from any place of purchase to his residence or place of business, between his dwelling and his place of business, between one place of business or residence and another when moving, or between his dwelling or place of business and place where such firearms are repaired. While there are some exceptions with regard to hunting, generally the law restricts where and how a person can transport a gun in New Jersey.
More importantly, it unfairly impacts those coming into the state or traveling through the state, who are often arrested for having out-of-state guns in their vehicles without a permit from New Jersey. Until something changes, countless individuals will face serious charges for possessing firearms in a manner inconsistent with the law. If you are someone who has been impacted by New Jersey’s stringent gun laws, contact our attorneys today at (201)-614-2474 for a free consultation. We regularly defend individuals throughout New Jersey facing a vast array of serious weapons charges, including unlawful possession of a firearm. A member of our team is available immediately to discuss your case, explain your rights, and assist with your defense.