Supreme Court Punts On D.C. Gun Ban Case, For Now
It was widely expected that the Supreme Court would announce today whether it would accept the appeal filed by the District of Columbia in the lawsuit challenging it’s handgun ban. As Lyle Denniston reports at ScotusBlog, that wasn’t the case:
The Supreme Court on Tuesday announced no action on a new case testing the meaning of the Second Amendment — an issue the Court has not considered in 68 years. The Orders List contained no mention of either the District of Columbia’s appeal (07-290) or a cross-petition by challengers to the city’s flat ban on private possession of handguns (07-335). The next date for possible action on these cases is likely to come after the Court’s pre-Thanksgiving Conference — either on the day of the Conference, Nov. 20, or the following Monday, Nov. 26.
Figuring out what might be going on with this case at the Supreme Court is a bit like reading tea leaves, but Denniston offers several possible explanations:
[A]mong the possible reasons for delaying the case are these: one or more Justices simply asked for more time to consider the two cases; the Court may be rewriting the question or questions it will be willing to review — especially in view of the disagreement between the two sides on what should be at issue; the Court may have voted initially to deny review of one or both cases and one or more Justices are writing a dissent from the denial. The appeal in 07-290 (District of Columbia v. Heller) raises the key issue about the Second Amendment’s meaning — that is, whether it guarantees an individual right to have a handgun for private use, at least in one’s home — and the appeal in 07-335 (Parker v. District of Columbia) poses a question about who may bring lawsuits to challenge laws before they are actively enforced. Together, the cases thus present a somewhat complex mix for the Court, and it perhaps was not much of a surprise that no order issued on Tuesday. At no point is there likely to be an answer as to what happened to bring about the delay. Both cases are expected to be re-listed for the Nov. 20 Conference.
There is, of course, the possibility that the Court could decide not to accept either appeal. However, given the fact that both cases present issues that haven’t been ruled on at the Supreme Court level in quite some time and the fact that there is presently a split among the Circuit Courts of Appeal on the meaning and proper interpretation of the Second Amendment, that outcome seems highly unlikely
So, stay tuned.