Supreme Court Set To Hear Two Important Gun-Related Cases

With Democrats in control of the executive branch and the upper chamber of Congress, many conservatives see the U.S. Supreme Court as a pivotal safeguard against the infringement of constitutional rights.

Late last week, the nation’s highest court confirmed that it would be hearing two cases that could result in major implications for First and Second Amendment liberties.

First, justices said they would consider a case involving the National Rifle Association that hinges more on the group’s free-speech rights than its firearms-related advocacy. The organization petitioned the court over alleged “pressure tactics” implemented by the Department of Financial Services in New York intended to silence its ability to advocate for Second Amendment rights.

Specifically, the NRA — represented by a team of attorneys including free-speech expert Eugene Volokh — is accusing the New York agency of using “backchannel threats, ominous guidance letters, and selective enforcement of regulatory infractions” with the apparent goal of convincing financial institutions and insurance companies not to do business with the group.

“The public importance of this case cannot be overstated,” Volokh wrote. “A regulatory regime — even a facially content-neutral one — that inhibits protected freedoms of expression and association violates the First Amendment. An overt campaign by state officials to wield regulatory power against a disfavored civil rights organization — here the NRA — precisely because of its disfavored speech at least as clearly merits this Court’s attention and reversal.”

The Supreme Court will also consider another case aimed at determining whether the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives went too far in labeling guns equipped with a bump stock as “machine guns.”

Doing so allowed for a federal ban on the sale and use of bump stocks under a decades-old machine gun prohibition.

The ATF already faced a legal setback when the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found that bump stocks do not transform semiautomatic weapons into machine guns and that the device could only be lawfully banned through legislation that originates in Congress. Now, the New Civil Liberties Alliance is using the Administrative Protection Act as the basis for taking the ATF to the Supreme Court using the argument that the agency is not authorized to amend the congressional definition of “machine gun.”