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Supreme Court agrees to hear gun-rights case, rejects DACA one

The Supreme Court ducked taking a major case involving the Obama-era DACA program but did agree Tuesday morning to hear a gun-rights case, in what legal analysts said could be the final word on the court’s schedule for this term.

Hours later the Justice Department threw a curve, asking the justices to speed up a case involving the administration’s quest to ask about citizenship on the 2020 census. The department said the case is so momentous that the justices should hear it even before a lower appeals court has a chance.

They want the high court to overturn an Obama-appointed district judge who earlier this month erased the citizenship question from the 2020 count, ruling the government cut too many corners in its attempt to add the question in.

Normally, the justices would have firmed up the arguments for the rest of this year, legal experts said, with Tuesday’s list of cases being the final ones to make the cut.

The justices did not take any action on a case involving the Deferred Action from Childhood Arrivals program, leading analysts to conclude the case won’t be heard this term — and the program can remain in operation in the meantime, protecting some 700,000 “Dreamers.”

“Today immigrant youth can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that DACA protections will be safe for a few more months,” said Sanaa Abrar, advocacy director at United We Dream, a major advocacy group. “In mid-February, the court will announce whether they will take up the case in their next session this fall.”

Courts in New York, California, Texas, Maryland and Washington, D.C., have issued conflicting rulings on the legality of the 2012 program, which President Obama declared by executive action, and on President Trump’s 2017 effort to phase out DACA.

While immigration was sidelined, the Supreme Court did signal it will touch on another major social issue of guns, with a case involving New York City’s restrictions on transporting handguns.

Gun-rights advocates had challenged the rules, which restrict the transport of licensed handguns to and from firing ranges within the city and require that the guns remain locked and unloaded.

A federal appeals court last year upheld an earlier U.S. district court ruling that the transport ban doesn’t violate the First or Second Amendments or the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, nor does it violate the plaintiffs’ fundamental right to travel.

But the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association said that was “like telling New Yorkers that they are free to golf beyond city limits, just not with their own clubs,” the lawyers argued.

The case is the first significant gun litigation the justices have agreed to hear in a decade, and Second Amendment advocates said the importance of the case “cannot be overstated.”

“The Supreme Court’s decision to hear this case sets the stage for affirming the individual right to self-defense outside of the home,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association’s legislative-lobbying arm.

Meanwhile gun control advocates said they had feared that the appointment of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh would pave the way for more gun-related challenges reaching the Supreme Court.

“It appears our fears are coming true,” said Kris Brown, president of the Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “Gun safety laws in our country will no doubt continue to see challenge after challenge in court, so let it be known — we will be there every time to defend them, and we are ready for this fight.”

Still to be seen is what the justices do with the census case.

A federal district judge earlier this month ruled Commerce Department Secretary Wilbur L. Ross Jr. broke procedural laws when he added a question regarding citizenship to the next census in 2020.

That judge, an Obama appointee, said Mr. Ross disregarded the advice of experts who said asking about citizenship would scare perhaps 5 percent of people away from responding to the census, thus skewing the count. The judge said that ran afoul of the Administrative Procedure Act.

The Justice Department says that ruling trampled on Mr. Ross’s powers, granted by Congress, to set the contours of the census.

The case would normally go to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but the Trump administration said it will ask the justices to hear the case immediately.

It has made similar requests on other cases including DACA in the past, which have been rejected by the justices.

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