Case information: New York State Rifle and Pistol Ass’n, et al. v. Cuomo, et al., No. 13-291 (2d Cir. amicus brief filed August 5, 2014)
At Issue: This lawsuit, filed by a gun lobby group and a few individuals, challenges the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act, which was passed in direct response to the tragic elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The shooter at Newtown used an assault weapon and multiple high capacity magazines to kill 26 people, including 20 children, in just five minutes. The SAFE Act strengthened New York’s ban on these dangerous weapons and magazines by—among other things—broadening the definition of an assault weapon to include guns with characteristics that enable the firing of hundreds of bullets per minute, aid in the commission of mass murders and assaults, or facilitate the weapon’s concealment. This lawsuit makes the radical claim that the Second Amendment protects a “right” to own assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines and that New York’s laws regulating these dangerous weapons are unconstitutional. The vast majority of these provisions were upheld by the district court, and both parties have appealed the case to the Second Circuit.
The Law Center’s Brief: Our Second Circuit brief, joined by New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, argues that the Second Amendment, as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court, does not protect a right to own weapons that are designed for a battlefield and have no connection to lawful self-defense in the home. The brief emphasizes the fact that every court which has considered challenges to laws banning assault weapons or high capacity magazines since the Supreme Court’s landmark 2008 decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, has upheld those laws. Finally, the brief argues that even if the Second Amendment does protect these dangerous weapons, their regulation is still constitutional under intermediate scrutiny—the level of review overwhelming applied to Second Amendment claims—because such regulation is reasonably related to New York’s important interest in protecting public safety and reducing crime.