New York’s new gun law goes ahead despite judge calling it ‘unconstitutional’

ALBANY — On the first day the state’s new gun laws took effect Thursday, New Yorkers received a series of mixed messages about what to expect moving forward.

First, a federal judge in Syracuse declined to issue an injunction preventing the new laws from taking effect in a ruling in which he also detailed the many ways he ruled the law was “unconstitutional.”

Governor Kathy Hochul held a press conference in Manhattan this week with New York City Mayor Eric Adams, touting the new gun laws and pledging to “continue to lead the way and implement a common-sense gun safety legislation” that she says is meant to protect New Yorkers. armed violence. New signs were quickly put up, pointing to gun-free zones everywhere from the State Capitol to Times Square.

Amid these conflicting elements, law enforcement officials and county clerks juggle relatively high levels of requests for concealed carry firearms permits, often from citizens who are unsure. of any new details and whether their requests will be granted.

“It’s just mass confusion,” Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said.

The sheriff’s office has received triple the number of applications since the US Supreme Court struck down the state’s existing laws in late June, with 147 appointments expected – far more than a similar period last year, did he declare.

But as local authorities track new concealed carry laws, pro-Second Amendment groups are expressing frustration and hinting they will bring additional legal challenges to the rules. Proponents seeking to stem gun violence have argued that the expanded regulations would reduce gun crime – even though most gun crime is linked to illegal weapons.

“As gun violence continues to affect communities across the country, today’s decision is a victory in our efforts to protect New Yorkers,” said State Attorney General Letitia James. , in a press release Wednesday evening. “Responsible gun control action saves lives, and any attempt by the gun lobby to tear down New York’s sensible gun control laws will be met with a fierce defense of the law. We will continue to defend the constitutionality of our laws to protect all New Yorkers.

At least one group involved in the case dismissed by U.S. District Judge Glenn T. Suddaby on Wednesday, Gun Owners of America New York, plans to return to federal court with an updated lawsuit.

Other lawsuits by gun rights groups or Republicans are pending, including by state Republican Party Chairman Nick Langworthy. Democratic lawmakers have shown no desire to return to Albany to fix any of the flaws Suddaby pointed out, even though those shortcomings leave the law vulnerable to reversal. The next legislative session is scheduled for January.

“We are working with top legal experts to ensure our case progresses successfully,” New York State GOP spokeswoman Jessica Proud said in a statement. “As we will fight this in court, we urge New Yorkers to exercise their rights in the voting booth in November as well.”

Democratic lawmakers passed sweeping gun restrictions in July on concealed carry, including requiring candidates to retrain for a license and take classes on how to store a gun in completely safe. The Concealed Carry Improvement Act was passed in a special session a week after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the state’s century-old law that required New Yorkers to show “good cause” to get a concealed carry permit for self-defense.

The Supreme Court’s ruling was quickly seen as one that could open the state up to easier access to firearms. Gun lobbies pushed for the decision while gun safety organizations, many of which formed in the wake of the proliferation of mass shootings in the country, fought against it.

As expected, state lawmakers returned to Albany after their summer recess to pass laws tailored to the Supreme Court’s decision. This resulted in a law that gun rights groups sought to overturn on the grounds that they claimed it violated constitutional rights. The case before Suddaby was filed by the national and New York chapters of Gun Owners of America, and on behalf of a Schenectady County man, Ivan Antonyuk.

Suddaby, one of the last judges appointed by President George W. Bush, described Antonyuk as a Ukrainian immigrant who likely has a “deep distrust of totalitarian regimes that offer few means of fighting crime to its citizens. “. He said the U.S. citizen “seems to have taken his oath of citizenship as seriously as native citizens would probably want” and therefore, according to the judge, Antonyuk is a law-abiding citizen.

The case was about whether Antonyuk and the gun rights group had the “capacity” to take legal action. The judge said a valid legal case could be based on challenging restrictions the state has placed on where someone can carry a gun. Places such as concerts, schools, healthcare facilities, Times Square, and public transportation are among the places where the law prohibits anyone from bringing a firearm. But Suddaby said the threat of arrest by law enforcement with a credible prosecution should be a precursor to supporting such a legal challenge seeking an injunction.

In his ruling, he said gun rights supporters could amend and refile a new application for a preliminary injunction. The judge acknowledged the “sense of security” a concealed weapon provides to those “too helpless to physically defend themselves in public without a handgun.”

“While pursuing the laudable goal of public safety and in an attempt to curb the ever-escalating mass shootings, the New York State Legislature has generated unconstitutional legislation,” Suddaby wrote.

The judge also described the drafting process as being ‘rushed’ and noted the list of ‘sensitive places’ where lawmakers say guns should not be allowed – except those with exemptions, such as retired police officers and law enforcement officials who are in good standing – is a “wish list”. He said the state made the law too broad by limiting a person’s ability to carry a gun for self-defense.

“The court finds it hard to imagine how a responsible, law-abiding citizen could ever ‘use’ a concealed handgun to defend himself in public against another person in a way that does not ‘endanger’ that other person. “, states Suddaby’s decision, referring to the language of the law.

The judge said the list of restricted places should be limited to schools, government buildings, legislatures, polling stations and courthouses.

He also said the state’s controversial background checks on social media applicants went too far because it violated Fifth Amendment rights. Suddaby explained that he believes people shouldn’t have to sacrifice their ability to obtain a concealed carry permit, which is their Second Amendment right, to exercise their right to express themselves online. If a candidate were to disclose what they posted on their social media accounts, it would violate their right to remain silent, he added.

Apple, the Albany County sheriff, said he instructed his office to rely on education rather than arrests. If someone is found to be carrying a concealed handgun in a sensitive location, they could be punished with a low-level criminal offense. But Apple said that as long as people aren’t intentionally trying to break the law, it hopes they’ll be willing to follow the rules once they understand them.

“The reality is most people are going to take responsibility, like they always have, and we’ll never know who has a gun and who doesn’t,” Apple said. “Heaven forbid, if the circumstances arise and they have to use it, I think the last concern they will have is whether they should have it there or not.”

Comments are closed.