(Adds background on case)
By Andrew Chung
WASHINGTON, Jan 22 (Reuters) - The conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday stepped into the divisive issue of gun rights by agreeing to take up a challenge backed by the National Rifle Association to New York City's strict limits on handgun owners toward transporting their firearms outside of the home.
The nine justices will review a 2018 lower court ruling upholding the city's restrictions after three gun owners and the NRA's New York state affiliate sued claiming the regulations violated the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment right to "keep and bear arms."
The case will be heard and decided in the court's next term, which starts in October and ends in June 2020.
The decision indicates a new interest on the court, where conservatives hold a 5-4 margin, on guns and is the first major gun case to come before the justices since 2010.
The court's conservative wing has been bolstered in the past two years by President Donald Trump's appointment of two justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh last year replaced Justice Anthony Kennedy, a conservative who sometimes sided with the court's liberals on high-profile social issues.
The Supreme Court has not taken up a major firearms case since issuing important gun rulings in 2008 and 2010 that established an individual right to own guns for self-defense.
The New York case concerned people who have licenses to have guns at home, known as "premises" licenses, who are already allowed to take unloaded guns to shooting ranges within New York City. The plaintiffs said the city's rules forbidding them from taking their guns to ranges or other homes outside city limits amounted to a "draconian" transport ban.
Premises licenses are different from "carry" licenses, which give holders broader freedom to take guns outside the home and are not at issue in the case. (Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)
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