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Court denies gun rights cases (UPDATED)

UPDATED 1:37 p.m.  This post on this morning’s orders by the Court has been significantly expanded.


The Supreme Court refused on Monday, as it has done repeatedly in recent years, to settle the issue of whether Second Amendment rights to have a gun extend beyond the home.  The Court, without comment, denied three new petitions — two filed by the National Rifle Association — seeking clarification on the scope of an individual’s right to have a gun for personal self-defense.  In other orders, the Court did not accept any new cases for review, although it did hold over a number of cases it had examined for potential review.

Since the Court first ruled nearly six years ago that the Second Amendment protects a personal right to have a gun, it has issued only one further ruling — expanding that right so that it applies nationwide, to state and local gun control laws, as well as to federal laws.   But, without exception, the Justices have turned aside every potential sequel, essentially leaving it to lower courts to continue to sort out variations on the right.

One thing seemed clear from the denial of review of two of the new cases, the NRA’s challenges: the Court is not, as yet, ready to stop lower courts from creating an entirely new group in society with less than full gun rights.  In those cases, it was youths aged eighteen to twenty years old.

One petition — NRA v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms — was a challenge to the part of a 1968 law barring licensed gun dealers from selling handguns to those in that age bracket.  The other case — NRA v. McCraw  — was a challenge to a series of Texas laws that generally barred individuals in that age bracket from qualifying for a license to carry a handgun in public, outside the home.

In separate rulings in those cases, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit raised doubts about whether individuals in that age group are entitled to any protection under the Second Amendment, on the theory that the Supreme Court had upheld gun rights only for “responsible” individuals.

While the Supreme Court’s denial of review of those petitions was not explained, it cannot be said for sure that it agreed with the lower court’s view, but that view does prevail for the time being.

The third Second Amendment case denied review on Monday was Lane v. Holder, an attempt to get the Court to clarify when gun purchasers have a legal right (“standing,” in a technical sense) to go to court to challenge federal restrictions on gun buying.  At issue is a provision of a 1968 law barring all interstate sales of guns except through federally licensed gun dealers, and whether purchasers can sue to challenge that limitation.

Among other cases turned aside by the Justices were three petitions, by makers of household washing machines, seeking to head off a nationwide wave of lawsuits by consumers, complaining that front-end loading washers emitted sour or foul orders after several uses.  The Court had examined those petitions at least four times before finally deciding not to hear any of them.  The central issue was when or whether a group of consumers will be allowed to pursue in a class action a complaint against a consumer product, if not all of them actually suffered any harm or hardship from having that product.

The denial, leaving in doubt where the Court stands on class-action lawsuits over widely available consumer goods, came in the cases of BSH Home Appliance v. Cobb, Sears Roebuck v. Butler, and Whirlpool v. Glazer.

Here, in summary, are some of the other issues that the Court chose not to review:

** Congress’s power to include poker games in a 1970 law making it a crime to run a gambling business, if that is illegal under state law (DeCristina v. United States).

** Whether the First Amendment protects a police officer from on-the-job discipline for reporting misconduct by fellow officers (Burbank, Calif., v. Dahlia).

** The power of states, under the federal Medicaid program for the poor, to refuse to provide any funds to a health care facility that performs abortions (Betlach v. Planned Parenthood-Arizona).

** The constitutionality of police use of a taser —  a stun gun — as a method of control of an individual (Shelton v. Gravelet-Blondin).

Among the cases that the Justices had considered at their private Conference last Friday, but on which they took no action Monday, were these:

** Whether employers must pay overtime to workers for the time, after they complete their normal work chores, to go through security screening as a theft-prevention measure (Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk).

** A plea to clarify when a state regulatory agency is considered to be an arm of the state and is thus immune to antitrust challenge (North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission).

** The constitutionality of prosecutors’ use in a criminal trial of a statement by another individual in the case, when the statement uses pronouns and not the real name of the accused also on trial (Wetzel v. Washington).


Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, Court denies gun rights cases (UPDATED), SCOTUSblog (Feb. 24, 2014, 9:38 AM),