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Supreme Court puts gun rights back on the radar

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

One of the most striking phenomena of the Trump era has been the decline of firearm businesses despite Republican political dominance.

Why it matters: The Supreme Court now has five conservative justices, and it's taking up a gun rights case for the first time in 9 years.

  • "The Supreme Court ... will take up ... a challenge to New York City’s prohibition on carrying a licensed, locked and unloaded handgun outside the city limits," AP reports.
  • "The court’s decision to hear the appeal filed by three New York residents and New York’s National Rifle Association affiliate could signal a revived interest in gun rights by a more conservative court."

Between the lines: The court wading back into any gun-control issue is probably bad news for gun-control advocates. SCOTUS’ abstinence was probably the best they were ever going to get, Axios' Sam Baker emails.

  • The Supreme Court has declined to review a number of cases across the country where lower courts upheld state or local laws, from expanded background checks to the ban on some semi-automatic weapons that Connecticut passed in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting.
  • And the fact that it’s taking up a new case now, with its newly solidified conservative majority, is another sign that it’s ready to pump the brakes on state-level gun control.

But the NRA is reeling, losing three big political fights since Trump's election.

  1. They failed to get concealed carry reciprocity through Congress.
  2. They similarly failed on loosening laws on silencers.
  3. And Trump has used executive action to ban "bump stocks," which the NRA called "disappointing" but did not explicitly oppose.

And the gun business isn't doing much better.

  • "[T]he industry was facing a so-called 'Trump slump,' a plummet in sales that happens amid gun rights-friendly administrations," AP notes.
  • "Background checks were at an all-time high in 2016, President Barack Obama’s last full year in office, numbering more than 27.5 million; since then, background checks have been at about 25 million each year."

P.S. Former Trump aide Sam Nunberg to CNN: "When I was interviewed by the special counsel's office, I was asked about the Trump campaign and our dealings with the NRA."