New York’s gun-carry law is back in federal court, and this time its fate might be sealed.
At the end of last month, US District Judge Glenn Suddaby rejected an attempt by gun-rights advocates to block the state’s Concealed Carry Improvement Act (CCIA) from taking effect. He dismissed the suit without prejudice after determining the plaintiffs in the case, Gun Owners of America (GOA) and a New York gun owner, “failed to demonstrate standing.”
The dismissal allowed the new law to take effect starting on the first day of this month. As a result, gun owners hoping to obtain a permit to carry a firearm in public for self-defense must now demonstrate that they possess “good moral character” by disclosing their social media accounts for review, providing four character references, and conducting in-person interviews with law enforcement officials. They must also pass 18 hours of classroom and live fire training through a state-approved training course that has yet to be developed.
Additionally, those who do obtain a permit are now barred from carrying on private property unless the owner posts a sign explicitly allowing it. They’re also barred from carrying anywhere the state has declared a “sensitive location,” defined broadly to include all of Times Square and most public property in the state. The places deemed off-limits to lawful carry are construed so broadly, that when asked by reporters where a law-abiding licensee might be able to carry under the law, New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D.) glibly responded “probably some streets.”
The rushed nature of the provisions in the bill, combined with its felony penalties for those who do not comply, has already wreaked havoc across areas of the state for even the most benign activities. A ceremonial 21-gun salute by New York state officials commemorating the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks was forced to take place at a consenting gas station this month, rather than at a county court house, due to the law’s no-exceptions ban on gun carry on government property. Musket-wielding Civil War reenactors have been forced to cancel their events out of fear of being arrested.
However, because the previous attempt to have the new law thrown out in court was dismissed without prejudice, the plaintiffs had the option of filing another suit on the same cause of action at a later date. And that is exactly what they did.
GOA refiled its complaint this week and added five additional plaintiffs who are licensed gun carriers and thus directly affected by the law in various ways. At least four of the plaintiffs intend to continue carrying their licensed handguns in newly minted “sensitive locations” in contravention of the CCIA, according to the complaint.
One of the reasons why Judge Suddaby declined to issue an injunction in the first suit and ultimately dismissed the complaint was that the law hadn’t gone into effect at the time of his ruling. As a result, he said GOA could not demonstrate that the plaintiff in the case had suffered any constitutional harm from the law. Now that at least four plaintiffs are on record stating that they are risking a felony charge in order to continue carrying, odds are better a judge recognizes legal harm stemming from the law.
Bolstering the odds of success for the plaintiffs this time around is the fact that the new suit got assigned to a familiar face: Judge Suddaby. Though he did not rule in their favor the first time around, he was pretty explicit in his thoughts on the overall legality of New York’s new gun-carry scheme.
“While pursuing the laudable goal of public safety, and in an attempt to curb ever-increasing mass shootings, the New York State Legislature has generated an unconstitutional statute in the CCIA,” he wrote in his dismissal. “In its eight-day haste to pass a legislative response to the Supreme Court’s Decision in NYSRPA, (which reads less like such a measured response than a wish list of exercise-inhibiting restrictions glued together by a severability clause in case some of the more fanciful restrictions were struck down), the New York State Legislature forgot four important words–‘other than in self-defense.’”
In other words, New York’s CCIA is bound to be struck down. The Judge knows it, the plaintiffs know it, and even the state likely knows it. It’s just a matter of GOA satisfying the court’s standing requirements now. The group filed for a preliminary injunction once again, but they also requested an emergency temporary restraining order against enforcement of the law this time.
As a result, Judge Suddaby has ordered a fast-tracking of the initial briefings and hearing schedule for the case. Though the suit was filed just this week, the oral arguments for the TRO will be heard as soon as next Thursday.
That means, as long as Judge Suddaby is satisfied with the new crop of plaintiffs’ standing in the case, New Yorkers hoping to legally carry a firearm in public could be in for some relief in less than a week’s time.