A federal judge has temporarily blocked the enforcement of parts of a New York gun law that was enacted in the wake of a Supreme Court decision earlier this summer striking down certain protections.
Among the provisions of the New York law that the state cannot enforce is one that defines Times Square as a “gun-free zone.” The law is aimed at placing restrictions on carrying a concealed handgun outside the home.
Judge Glenn T. Suddaby of the US District Court for the Northern District of New York said the state has “further reduced a first-class constitutional right to bear arms in public for self-defense” into a mere “request.” He said that several provisions of the law had no historical justification, a controversial requirement put forward by the high court last spring.
Back then, Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for a 6-3 court, said that a state had to justify a regulation by demonstrating that the law is “consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”
Regarding Times Square, Suddaby cited the Supreme Court decision and said that it “might be argued” that historical statutes banning the carrying of guns in “fairs or markets” are analogous to the current law. But, he said, he had only found two such laws.
“Two statutes do not make a tradition,” he wrote.
Critics correctly predicted that the Supreme Court decision – the widest expansion of gun rights in a decade – would trigger new challenges to gun regulations across the country.
The temporary restraining order will become effective in three business days.
In a statement, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, said her office is working with the state attorney general to discuss an appeal.
“While this decision leaves aspects of the law in place, it is deeply disappointing that the judge wants to limit my ability to keep New Yorkers safe and to prevent more senseless gun violence,” Hochul said.
Gun Owners of America, a group to which all six plaintiffs belong, said they were grateful for the judge’s decision and criticized Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams as “anti-gunners.”
GOA’s Senior Vice President Erich Pratt said in a statement that Hochul and Adams had “misrepresented the Second Amendment to the courts, putting New Yorkers at a great disadvantage in the midst of rising crime.”
The plaintiffs, including at least one individual who wants to carry his firearm in church, argue the state is violating their Second and 14th Amendment rights by denying them the right to self-defense. They have already filed for a preliminary injunction with Suddaby in order to eventually prohibit the state from enforcing its new set of laws.
The judge’s decision nods to the fact that carrying a handgun in public is generally protected by the Constitution.
Provisions preventing the concealed carry of weapons in polling places and houses of worship remain in place; however, the court carved out an “exception for those persons who have been tasked with the duty to keep the peace at the place of worship or religious observation.” New York state also can restrict concealed carry in nursery schools, preschools and other school-based institutions, as well as at protests or “public assemblies.”
The state, however, cannot enforce a concealed carry restriction on public transportation, including subway cars and railroads; summer camps; at entertainment, gaming or sporting events; or zoos, libraries, parks, homeless shelters, domestic violence victims’ residential programs and licensed childcare programs among others, in part because these places are in locations where law enforcement or security are “presumably – readily available.”
Additionally, the state cannot enforce a requirement which would have required a prospective gun owner to turn over three years of their social media accounts.
The law, which went into effect in September, was signed by Hochul as a swift response to the Supreme Court striking down New York’s gun law that required a resident to obtain a license to carry a concealed pistol or revolver in public and demonstrate that “proper cause” existed for the permit.
The law enacts a strict permitting process for concealed-carry licenses and it requires background checks for ammunition sales. It also restricts the concealed carry of firearms in locations such as government buildings.
This story has been updated with additional details and reaction.