The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear a challenge to a New York City law restricting the rights of handgun owners to carry their weapons outside the home.
The 6-3 decision sends the case back to the lower courts — a move that pleases gun control advocates who were afraid that the conservative-majority court would rule against them.
The case centered on the New York City gun licenses that let handgun owners carry their locked and unloaded weapons only from their homes to several shooting ranges within city limits.
Attorneys for the city argued that the law was a matter of public safety and did not infringe on the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
A group of gun owners, backed by Trump administration lawyers, challenged the law, arguing that it was too restrictive.
But after the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, New York amended the law to allow people to carry their guns to places outside the city, including second homes, gun clubs, target shooting ranges and where hunting is allowed.
The court decided not to hear the case Monday, saying the changes to the law makes the challenge moot, and sent it back to the lower court for any further challenges and arguments.
Three conservative justices — Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas — dissented.
“Petitioners got most, but not all, of the prospective relief they wanted,” Alito wrote, saying gun owners can still seek damages.
Gun control advocates are pleased the court decided not to rule on the case.
“Today’s decision rejects the NRA’s invitation to use a moot case to enact its extreme agenda aimed at gutting gun safety laws supported by a majority of Americans,” said Hannah Shearer, litigation director at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
But the National Rifle Association, the country’s premier gun rights group, said the court Monday accepted what the NRA calls New York City’s “surrender” and admission of wrongdoing. It calls on the city to reimburse the plaintiffs’ legal fees.
Affordable Care Act ruling
In another case, the court ruled 8-1 Monday in favor of health insurance companies seeking $12 billion from provisions in the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” that allows them to collect losses incurred by offering coverage to uninsured Americans.
The court threw out a lower court decision that ruled Congress had suspended the payment provision.
Writing for the majority, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said denying payment to the insurance companies would be a “bait and switch.”
“The government should honor its obligations,” Sotomayor wrote.
Alito was the only dissenter, writing that paying off “has the effect of providing a massive bailout for insurance companies that took a calculated risk and lost.”
The provision that would reimburse insurance companies for losses was in effect under the Affordable Care Act from 2014 until 2016.