Easily overlooked in all the attention paid (rightly) to the historic Supreme Court decision extending antidiscrimination protections to LGBTQ people was a quiet announcement by the justices that they would not hear any of the 10 Second Amendment cases they had been considering. By agreeing not to decide these cases, the justices sent a clear signal to the gun-rights movement: Stop looking to the Supreme Court to strike down gun-control laws.
The 10 cases raised fundamentally important and largely unanswered questions about the scope of the Second Amendment. In 2008’s District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment guaranteed an individual right to have handguns in the home for personal protection. But the decision did not clarify whether a person has a right to carry a firearm on the streets, what kind of permitting cities and states can require for public carry, or whether assault rifles are protected arms.
In the years since Heller, most of these questions have arisen in the lower courts, but judges have by and large upheld most forms of gun control. Gun-rights advocates, including the National Rifle Association, have brought case after case challenging gun-control laws to the Supreme Court, hoping that the justices would step in and provide more protection to gun owners. Before Justice Anthony Kennedy’s resignation in 2018, the Court had consistently refused to take another big Second Amendment case. When Brett Kavanaugh joined the Court, gun advocates seemed likely to finally get their way: The Court took a New York case that looked to be the vehicle for expanding the Second Amendment.