SCOTUS Turns Away One 2A Case, Another Held In Conference

The Supreme Court has turned away a request by the Mountain State Legal Foundation to give the green light for a federal challenge to Boulder, Colorado’s ban on AR-15’s and other so-called assault weapons while a state-level challenge is tied up in state court.

In its orders on Monday morning, the Court denied cert to an appeal by the MSLF to allow the case Caldara v. City of Boulder to proceed in federal court. The move doesn’t derail the Second Amendment challenge to the city’s gun ban, but it does mean that the federal litigation will have to wait until after the Colorado State Supreme Court issues its own ruling on the ban, which could be months from now.

The denial by the Supreme Court shouldn’t be seen as a sign that Justice Amy Coney Barrett and other conservative justices are unwilling to hear a Second Amendment challenge, by the way. Not only do we not know how the individual justices voted on the issue of cert, the issue before the court in Caldara at the moment had more to do with existing precedent; specifically, when federal courts can adjudicate issues that are the subject of state-level litigation as well. It would have been great if SCOTUS had signed off on the federal challenge to proceed, but today’s decision doesn’t end the case. It just keeps the issue on hold in the federal courts for now.

The Court did hold over another another case dealing with firearms, and will consider Caniglia v. Strom once again this coming Friday. As we detailed a few days ago, Caniglia is actually more of a Fourth Amendment challenge than a Second Amendment case, though guns are at the heart of the controversy in the case.

Edward Caniglia and his wife got into an argument one afternoon in 2015, and in a moment of melodrama, he put an unloaded pistol on a table in front of his wife and said, “why don’t you just shoot me and get me out of my misery.” Caniglia’s wife of 22-years left the house instead, but when her husband didn’t answer her phone call the next day she asked police to make a wellness check.

They found that Caniglia was just fine, and he explained to police what had happened. Even though the officers said he “seemed normal,” they still told him they were going to take him to the local hospital to get evaluated. The police specifically told Caniglia that they would not take his two handguns if he voluntarily went with them, so he did. He was checked out, pronounced no danger to himself or others, billed $1,000 for the privilege of being told what he already knew, and was sent home, only to discover that police had in fact taken the two guns from the home. Not only that, they did so without a warrant.

Edward Caniglia’s been trying to get his guns back from the Cranston, Rhode Island police department ever since.

The Supreme Court took no action on the Caniglia case in conference, and it should be re-listed for the next conference that will be held on Friday. It’s hard to read the tea leaves here; this could be a sign that there are a number of justices interested in taking the case, but it could also be an indication that one or more of the justices wants to write a dissent about the decision to not accept the case and needs more time to do so. We should have a much clearer picture when the next set of conference orders comes out a week from now.

In the meantime, a number of other Second Amendment cases are percolating at the appellate level, including a challenge to Hawaii’s ban on open carry without a license that’s awaiting an en banc decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. As soon as that opinion comes down, we’re likely to see an appeal to the Supreme Court, and expectations will be high for the Court to accept the case since it deals directly with an infringement of the right to bear arms.