New York City: Let's repeal this gun control law. Gun owners: Hell, no!

Has the world gone crazy? The city of New York, which has rarely met a gun-control law it hasn’t loved, wants to repeal one. Gun owners in The Big Apple want to stop the repeal action and keep the law on the books, and are flooding the comment process in an effort to stop the city from changing the law.

What gives? In short, both sides are counting the chairs on the Supreme Court:

In January, the court agreed to hear a Second Amendment challenge to a New York City gun regulation. The city, fearing a loss that would endanger gun control laws across the nation, responded by moving to change the regulation. The idea was to make the case moot.

The move required seeking comments from the public, in writing and at the hearing. Gun rights advocates were not happy. …

The regulation allows residents with so-called premises licenses to take their guns to one of seven shooting ranges in the city. But it prohibits them from taking their guns to second homes and shooting ranges outside the city, even when the guns are unloaded and locked in containers separate from ammunition.

The city’s proposed changes, likely to take effect in a month or so, would remove those restrictions. Whether they would also end the case is another matter.

This strategy has almost been tried before, Adam Liptak notes, and it nearly backfired when it did. When Heller was making its way up the chain to the Supreme Court, the NRA tried to get Congress to force DC to repeal the law challenged in the case. They thought the case would be a loser for gun rights and set back the case for the argument that the Second Amendment was a fully incorporated individual right. That didn’t happen, of course, but it’s a curious counterfactual to consider what would have happened had the NRA succeeded.

The odds for backfire on NYC in this case seem a lot smaller. Having found gun ownership and legal use a fully incorporated individual constitutional right, the court will likely take a dim view of cities that forbid reasonable transportation of firearms, especially to enforce an economic cartel for firing ranges. The risk for NYC isn’t just that the Supreme Court will strike down this law, though — it’s that the court will rule more broadly on the limits of gun control regulations that cities and states can pass. With Brett Kavanaugh on board, this might be the friendliest court that gun-rights advocates have had in decades, and perhaps friendlier than they might ever see again.

Small wonder, then, that New York City wants to repeal this regulation now. The court might not buy the idea that the city’s changes moots the review, however. The court has already refused to suspend the case while the city’s comment period was in effect, and one has to wonder whether they see this as a threadbare attempt to game the system. The conservative justices might look at the court’s composition and also decide that there’s no time like the present to set limits on such onerous regulations.