Conservatives suffered separate setbacks this week in federal and state Supreme Courts on the issues of gun rights and public indecency, though the losses appear to be based on procedural and technical issues and not on the underlying merits.
At the U.S. Supreme Court, an emergency petition to block enforcement of a new gun control law set to take effect in New York was turned away while a broader challenge against the law proceeds on appeal, according to Newsday.
Meanwhile, Cleveland.com reported that the Ohio Supreme Court ruled unanimously to block a proposed local ordinance restricting drag shows in Bellefontaine from appearing on ballots in November due to changes made to the ballot initiative petition after signatures had been collected.
Spectrum News reported that a provision in New York's 2022 Concealed Carry Improvement Act recently took effect that requires gun retailers to perform background checks on ammunition purchases, albeit not through the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, but rather through the New York State Police.
In addition to requiring gun retailers to use the state police background check system instead of the federal system, the law mandates licensed dealers also charge an additional fee of $9 for firearms purchases and $2.50 for ammunition purchases, while also subjecting those same dealers to periodic spot checks of their records by state authorities.
In mid-September, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor rejected a request to block that provision before it took effect. Another emergency petition was filed in late September to place the new law on hold, and while Justice Clarence Thomas had taken it up for consideration, it was still ultimately rejected by the high court while a broader appeal against the law proceeds.
The Daily Gazette reported that Democratic New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said of the decision, "The United States Supreme Court has sided with common sense, denying the application for emergency relief that would have temporarily dismantled New York’s nation-leading gun safety laws."
"This news comes following the plaintiffs’ last-ditch effort to get Justice Clarence Thomas to grant the same application that Justice Sonia Sotomayor had already denied, to attempt to block the law on firearms checks that we passed last year following the Buffalo massacre and the overturning of New York’s century-old gun safety laws," she added. "Public safety is my top priority, and I’m committed to working with law enforcement and leaders across New York to keep our communities safe."
Not everyone is pleased with the decision, however, as New York Assemblyman Robert Smullen (R) said, "The greater law as a whole, the Concealed Carry Improvement Act, is very unconstitutional. And the state’s new law is in direct contradiction to [the decision] U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas issued in the Bruen vs. New York State Rifle and Pistol Association decision."
"So, in this case, there’s the federal [National Instant Criminal Background Check System], which, as my grandfather used to say, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it," he continued. "Well, the state police fix on this is actually not working very well at all and it’s a duplicative layer at the state level, which only causes trouble for law-abiding citizens."
Smullen believed that the broader case would be before the Supreme Court next year and added, "I just want make clear, I think this is a procedural denial, not on the merits of the case. And I very much look forward to the appeal."
As for the ruling in Ohio, Cleveland.com reported that it stemmed from a risque drag queen float sponsored by a local gay bar in Bellefontaine in a 2022 Christmas parade that sparked a ballot initiative petition drive on a new local ordinance that would classify drag shows as an "adult cabaret performance" and regulate them as such, meaning such performances would be prohibited from being "held on public property, or any location viewable by a minor."
However, per the Ohio Supreme Court's unanimous decision, the cover sheet of the petition and title of the proposed ordinance were altered by Secretary of State Frank LaRose and the Logan County Board of Elections after sufficient signatures for ballot inclusion were collected but prior to the petition being submitted.
In rejecting the arguments from LaRose that the changes were minor and insignificant, the court ultimately ruled that "Secretary LaRose and the board of elections abused their discretion and disregarded the law in overruling relators’ protest," and as such barred the proposed ordinance from appearing on next month's local elections ballots.