Lawmakers and law enforcement officials in New York continue to push the Second Amendment’s limits as outlined just last year in a case they lost at the Supreme Court.
This week, we found out the NYPD’s reaction to SCOTUS striking down the state’s restrictive concealed carry permitting regime for being too selective was to issue fewer permits and at an even lower approval rate than before. In 2021, a new report from a local publication called The City shows, officials approved 2,591 of 4,663 gun ownership or carry permit applications–or 56 percent. In 2022, that number fell to 1,550, or 21 percent, of the 7,260 applications it received.
The numbers from the six months after the Supreme Court’s ruling in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen were even worse than the overall average for 2022. Applications for that period more than doubled from just over 2,000 to just under 5,000 as demand for gun permits rose in the wake of the ruling. However, the city only approved 503, or just over 10 percent, of those applications. And the change is unlikely to be caused by a surge in people applying who don’t qualify for a permit because the NYPD has only denied 16 of those applicants. They are simply sitting on the rest of them.
This is not a positive development for New Yorkers who wish to legally arm themselves. But it’s also bad news for the NYPD’s permitting division, which is likely susceptible to a civil-rights challenge, and the state’s new restrictive concealed carry law, which has already garnered skepticism from key members of the High Court as a potential attempt to disregard Bruen.
This is especially true if the NYPD is intentionally slow-walking the gun permits. That’s what attorney Peter Tilem, who is representing gun owners in a class-action lawsuit related to the delays, said is probably going on.
“‘Holy shoot, what do we do now?'” he told The City, imagining discussions between NYPD officials. “Let’s not decide anything and let’s figure out what our options are.'”
After all, it did take the city a few weeks just to come up with a replacement for the law SCOTUS struck down. And the law has been enjoined several times since it was enacted in the fall of 2022. So, there were significant periods of time when the strictest parts of the state’s permitting process weren’t applicable, and the NYPD should have been issuing permits.
But they weren’t.
That’s a bad look for the department and the state alike. After all, New York is already facing down several, to-this-point-successful, challenges to its Bruen-response law. The state has done very little to disguise its end goal.
When asked by reporters where permit holders would be able to legally carry under the state’s broad expansion of gun-free “sensitive places,” Governor Kathy Hochul (D.) responded, “Probably some streets.”
That’s despite the Supreme Court explicitly noting in Bruen that, while some places can be kept off-limits for gun carry, they are limited.
“Put simply, there is no historical basis for New York to effectively declare the island of Manhattan a ‘sensitive place’ simply because it is crowded and protected generally by the New York City Police Department,” the majority wrote.
The NYPD seems to be doing just as little to disguise its attempt to avoid issuing gun permits to law-abiding residents. And that’s despite a warning from Justices Bret Kavanaugh and John Roberts that, while objective permitting requirements are likely constitutional, any requirements designed to prevent responsible citizens from obtaining permits are not allowed.
“As petitioners acknowledge, shall-issue licensing regimes are constitutionally permissible, subject of course to an as-applied challenge if a shall-issue licensing regime does not operate in that manner in practice,” Kavanaugh wrote.
The lack of permits in the state’s largest city will probably lend credence to the challenges already lodged against the state’s law. And those challenges were going very well even before this new information came out. Federal district judge Glenn Suddaby issued a temporary restraining order against most of the law’s controversial provisions back in October.
“Simply stated, instead of moving toward becoming a shall-issue jurisdiction, New York State has further entrenched itself as a shall-not-issue jurisdiction,” Suddaby wrote. “And, by doing so, it has further reduced a first-class constitutional right to bear arms in public for self-defense (which, during the 19th and 18th centuries in America, generally came with an assumption that law-abiding responsible citizens were not a danger to themselves or others unless there was specific ground for a contrary finding) into a mere request (which is burdened with a presumption of dangerousness and the need to show ‘good moral character’).”
Several other judges have done the same for individual aspects of it too. The state has appealed to the Second Circuit, which has stayed the lower court’s rulings. Its law remains in effect for now, even after a plea to the Supreme Court for intervention was denied in January.
But that doesn’t mean things will stay that way for long. The case has been put on an accelerated schedule. And Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, went out of his way to note that the Supreme Court declined to intervene out of respect for the Second Circuit’s process and not because it agreed with New York on the case’s merits.
“The New York law at issue in this application presents novel and serious questions under both the First and the Second Amendments,” Alito wrote in Antonyuk v. Nigrelli. “The District Court found, in a thorough opinion, that the applicants were likely to succeed on a number of their claims, and it issued a preliminary injunction as to twelve provisions of the challenged law.”
They even encouraged plaintiffs in the case to come back to them if the Second Circuit took too long with its decision.
“Applicants should not be deterred by today’s order from again seeking relief if the Second Circuit does not, within a reasonable time, provide an explanation for its stay order or expedite consideration of the appeal,” Alito wrote.
Now, again, New York officials have given the Court another potential reason to get involved sooner than later. It has only been a year since SCOTUS knocked down New York’s strict gun laws. But the state’s officials have put themselves on the fast track for a second showdown with little reason to think the outcome would be any different this time around.