Supreme Court on Second Amendment and Qualified Immunity

By Hubert Plummer posted 06-16-2020 12:24 PM


As the very busy day at the Supreme Court winds down, the Court made big news on the Second Amendment front and on Qualified Immunity. 

The Court had ten cases listed in the gun rights area including cases regarding a federal prohibition on interstate handgun sales[i], three New Jersey cases on laws preventing citizens from carrying handguns outside the home for “self defense”[ii], California’s Unsafe Handgun Act[iii], two Massachusetts cases on laws prohibiting the carrying of handguns outside the home[iv], the Maryland handgun carry-permit process[v], and two cases on Illinois concealed carry license[vi].

The Supreme Court denied the certiorari petitions of all ten cases over the objections of Justices Thomas and Kavanaugh and no one else.[vii]

Additionally, the Court has denied petitions for certiorari on nine qualified immunity cases over the objection of just Justice Thomas.[viii]  Qualified immunity is the theory used to protect police officers from personal civil liability to someone injured by the officer acting in his or her capacity as a police officer.[ix]  Qualified immunity is generally a judicially created doctrine introduced by the Supreme Court in 1967.[x]  There are many examples of abuse of this doctrine, brought to the forefront in the recent and ongoing protests and violence.

There has been a recent concerted effort to do away with qualified immunity as many think it has been used too liberally to protect police abuses of power.  These cases came about through a concerted effort by the Cato Institute supported by many other entities including the ACLU, the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Institute for Justice, the NAACP, and the Second Amendment Foundation.  This is a bipartisan effort of conservative and liberal groups. There has also been a push in the House and the Senate to eliminate qualified immunity.

The refusal by the court to hear these cases leaves the issues unresolved and split among the various circuits.  So, no unifying decisions on these issues and the states continue to have their own positions on these issues.  It is hard to imagine that the Second Amendment issues will continue to avoid Supreme Court scrutiny; they have to do something eventually.











The author[s] is solely responsible for this blog submission.  It does not represent the position of the New York State Bar Association or its Committee.