Ever since the US Supreme Court’s 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the justices struck down a ban on owning handguns in Washington, D.C., challenges to gun laws have flooded the courts.
In its 5-to-4 decision, the high court said the District’s handgun prohibition, which started in 1976, violated the Second Amendment. But the court also left room for the District to put prohibitions on gun ownership by felons and the mentally ill.
“Since Heller there has been an onslaught of litigation,” says Laura Cutilletta, a senior staff attorney at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence in San Francisco. “The Supreme Court made clear the Second Amendment protects the right to defend yourself at home ... but the ruling pertained only to handguns, not any other weapon.”
Exactly where that leaves New York’s law is likely to be hotly debated.
A much earlier Supreme Court ruling, US v. Miller, protected the right to carry arms that are “part of ordinary military equipment” or in common use, says Nicholas Johnson, a professor at Fordham University School of Law in New York.