October 1, 2019, could end up being a huge day for gun owners at the U.S. Supreme Court. No opinions will be handed down that day, but the nine justices are scheduled to decide what it will do with several challenges to gun control laws that have made their way to the Court. The case getting the most attention is NYSRPA v NYC, which is a challenge to a gun transportation law. New York City is trying to moot the case by changing the law, but the Court could still choose to hear the case.
If the justices decide that this particular challenge is null and void, they’ll have at least two other Second Amendment cases they could pick up instead. Rogers v Grewal is a case dealing with concealed carry that’s been on the court’s calendar for months. It hasn’t been accepted or denied, and the speculation is that’s because of the NYSRPA case, which is currently scheduled for oral arguments this fall.
There’s another case that’s on the Court’s conference calendar for October 1 that also challenges New Jersey’s restrictive carry laws called Cheeseman v Polillo, and it could provide the Supreme Court with an opportunity to explicitly recognize the right to bear arms, not just to keep them.
In the United States, there are basically three different levels of recognition of the lawful and permitted carry of a loaded firearm on one’s person for self-defense and lawful purposes. Shall issue means the issuing authority will issue permits to those that have no criminal history or other prohibiting factors. Constitutional Carry means if it’s lawful for you to own a firearm, you may carry one without a permit. May means the issuing authority may or may not grant permits based on the information available and level of “need.” That’s the law in New Jersey.
“May Issue” in New Jersey is, in practice, “no issue.” The legislature helped solidify this by passing a series of gun control bills last year. One, in particular, added to the statute a definition of “Justifiable Need.” In plain English, a law-abiding citizen, regular Joe, will not be able to get a permit to carry in NJ unless they are able to show they have been previously attacked, multiple times, or there have been multiple previous specific threats to the person. Therefore, New Jersey is a “no issue” state, unless perhaps you’re politically connected or know the right people.
Mark Cheeseman aims to change this in New Jersey and now the country. After applying for a concealed carry permit and being denied, Cheeseman knew he had to do something to enact change to these laws. Mark was not happy with the direction his neighborhood was going and wanted to be able to better protect himself and his family. After his denial, he turned to other possible self-defense options. In New Jersey three-quarters of one ounce of pepper spray is all a normal citizen is allowed to defend themselves with. After his first denial, Cheeseman with the help of New Jersey Second Amendment Society fought and had overturned the state’s ban on stun guns or tasers.
Cheeseman, a little emboldened by the stun gun/taser win, applied a second time for a concealed carry permit and was yet again denied. He appealed and his case has made it all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. Not only is the case sitting on the doorstep of the Supreme Court, but now he has some backing. Two friends of the court briefs have been filed in support of Cheeseman. Between the two briefs, the following organizations are represented: Coalition of New Jersey Firearm Owners, Firearms Policy Coalition, Firearms Policy Foundation, California Gun Rights Foundation and Second Amendment Foundation. There are currently none in opposition. The state of New Jersey has refused to reply to the petition by their deadline to do so, a move they also made in Rogers Vs. Grewal. The court did force the State to respond in Rogers and on August 19th the court directed the state to respond to the Cheeseman suit.
Cases like NYSRPA v NYC, Rogers v Grewal, and Cheeseman v Polillo are gaining attention from gun control groups, at least. In the NYC case, over 15 organizations representing government entities, police forces or Bloomberg funded groups have filed briefs in opposition to the merits of the case. It’s clear they view these cases as a threat to their plans for sweeping and unconstitutional gun control laws across the country.
As for Cheeseman? He’s hopeful that his case gets heard but is okay with it being mooted. When discussing it he said “…I’m doing this for the rights of the people in New Jersey. I’m not doing this so just I can have a carry permit. If another case succeeds to make carry the law of the land, all the better.”
Sooner or later the Supreme Court will hear one of these Second Amendment challenges. The gun control groups can’t avoid a constitutional reckoning forever.
John Petrolino is a US Merchant Marine Officer, writer, and NRA certified pistol, rifle and shotgun instructor living under and working to change New Jersey’s draconian and unconstitutional gun laws. You can find him on twitter at @johnpetrolino