Bringing Together Conservative Voices

New York’s ‘sensitive location’ gun ban goes into effect, but judge flags ‘unconstitutional statute’

New York’s sweeping new gun restrictions went into effect Thursday after a federal judge declined to block the state from creating gun-free zones in so-called “sensitive” locations.

Under the Concealed Carry Improvement Act, lawful gun owners will not be allowed to carry their firearms in public spaces including parks, houses of worship, theaters, and much more. Democrats introduced the legislation in July after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 109-year-old state law that required citizens to show proper cause to apply for a concealed carry permit. The high court effectively ruled that “may issue” concealed carry permit regimes were unconstitutional, expanding gun rights nationwide.

In response to that decision, Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul vowed to enact laws that “go right up to the line” in terms of legally permissible gun restrictions. She claimed that the Supreme Court “destroyed the ability for a governor to be able to protect her citizens from people who carry concealed weapons anywhere they choose.”

She signed the Concealed Carry Improvement Act, which requires concealed carry applicants to undergo 16 hours of classroom training and two hours of live-fire exercises before being approved for a permit. In addition to banning guns in “sensitive” locations, it mandates that applicants must also undergo a review of their social media accounts over the last three years and must provide four character references who can attest to the applicant’s “good character.”

Gun rights groups and an upstate New York resident had sued to block the law from taking effect, arguing lawful gun owners could be denied concealed weapon permits on subjective grounds. They also challenged the sensitive locations provision and training requirements, but on Wednesday, Judge Glenn Suddaby of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York dismissed their case.

In a 78-page opinion, the judge said that while many of the plaintiffs’ arguments had merit, they lacked standing to challenge any aspect of the law. He gave several reasons why other pending legal challenges to the new concealed carry permit regime may succeed.

The judge said outright that the New York State Legislature “has generated an unconstitutional statute” because the law states, “No license shall be issued or renewed except for an applicant … of good moral character, which … shall mean having the essential character, temperament and judgement necessary … to use [the weapon entrusted to the applicant] only in a manner that does not endanger oneself or others.”

The legislature “forgot four important words — ‘other than in self-defense,'” Suddaby wrote. “The Court has difficulty imagining how any law-abiding, responsibile citizen could ever ‘use’ a concealed handgun to defend himself or herself in public against another person in a manner that does not ‘endanger’ the other person.'”

Suddaby also determined that some of the “sensitive” locations named in the New York law are “nonsensitive by nature.”

Gun Owners of America, one of the plaintiffs in the case, vowed to continue to fight the law.

“Despite the judge’s dismissal of the complaint, his opinion contains a silver lining for New Yorkers and the nation, as the robust precedent laid out by the Supreme Court in June is clearly making headway,” GOA senior vice president Erich Pratt said in a statement. “GOA looks forward to continuing the fight against clear violations of the Second Amendment, as we work to restore the rights of all Americans.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James, who defended the state law in court, claimed a “major victory” against “baseless attacks by the gun lobby.”

“Responsible gun control measures save lives,” the attorney general tweeted. “As gun violence continues to impact communities across the country, any attempts by the gun lobby to tear down New York’s sensible gun control laws will be met with fierce defense of the law.”