It looks like the second time is the charm for gun-rights advocates challenging New York’s gun-carry regime in court.
After failing to block the law before it took effect, gun-rights advocates obtained a temporary restraining order against major portions of New York’s new Concealed Carry Improvement Act (CCIA) on Thursday.
“Simply stated, instead of moving toward becoming a shall-issue jurisdiction, New York State has further entrenched itself as a shall-not-issue jurisdiction,” U.S. District Court Judge Glenn Suddaby wrote in his opinion. “And, by doing so, it has further reduced a first-class constitutional right to bear arms in public for self-defense into a mere request.”
It’s a significant legal win, but what does it mean in practical terms?
In the immediate term, it doesn’t change much. Judge Suddaby stayed his temporary restraining order for three days to provide New York with a chance to file an emergency appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. And New York officials have already done just that.
“Today’s decision comes in the wake of mass shootings and rampant gun violence hurting communities here in New York and across the country,” Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. “While the decision preserves portions of the law, we believe the entire law must be preserved as enacted.”
The outcome of that emergency appeal will ultimately determine the fate of New York gun carriers in the coming weeks. It will likely provide a good test case for how the Second Circuit plans to implement the standard handed down in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen. If the Second Circuit takes a similar analytical approach to Judge Suddaby, licensed gun carriers in the Empire State should enjoy some relief from many of the New York law’s more onerous restrictions and the felony penalties that come with their violation.
Judge Suddaby’s ruling found that many of the law’s “good moral character” provisions lacked a historical analogue. He determined that the state provided too much subjective discretion to permitting officials when deciding who can obtain a license to carry. He restrained the state from enforcing the portions of this provision that required in-person interviews with licensing officials, a complete list of an applicant’s family members and cohabitants, and the disclosure of an applicant’s social media accounts dating back three years.
The new restraining order will also prevent New York from enforcing its ban on licensed carry in many places it attempted to declare “sensitive locations.” That includes public transportation, places used for entertainment or amusement, places where alcoholic beverages are consumed, Times Square, and others. Suddaby also blocked the state from enforcing its novel provision that made publicly accessible private property off-limits to licensed carry unless expressly allowed by the property owner.
His order allowed the state to continue enforcing carry bans in government buildings, schools, polling places, permitted public assemblies, and places of worship but added an exception for church security staff.
While TROs generally only block enforcement of a given law for 14 days, Judge Suddaby noted that “good cause exists to extend the duration of this Temporary Restraining Order” beyond that typical limit. Instead, he decided to block the above-mentioned portions of the law while he decides whether to issue an injunction against the law on the merits. Based on the case’s current briefing schedule, that’s not likely to occur until next month at the earliest.
In the more intermediate term, the TRO deals a significant blow to New York and other similarly inclined states in their attempts to rebuke the Supreme Court in the wake of Bruen. Outraged by that decision, New York officials rushed to pass its sweeping new concealed carry bill in the hopes that it would blunt any impact that might come from the nation’s high court finding a right to carry a gun in public for self-defense. With a federal court now on record finding such circumvention likely unconstitutional, other states that had hoped to copy New York’s approach in the near future might reconsider those plans.
California, for example, tried and failed to pass a similar concealed carry bill as the state’s legislative session ended for the year. The lawmaker behind that effort has already vowed to try again at the beginning of the next session. Likewise, lawmakers in New Jersey and Hawaii have launched efforts in the past few weeks to introduce measures mimicking many of the same “sensitive places” restrictions featured in the New York law–including the novel provision making private businesses presumptively off-limits to licensed carry.
Thursday’s ruling is no guarantee that those other states will now be dissuaded from pursuing similar legislation, nor is it even a guarantee that New York will give up on its own fight against Bruen. But it does provide crucial early case law for advocates to use when looking to fight those future efforts.
The Supreme Court’s new test for reviewing Second Amendment challenges is still in its nascent stage. Early decisions like this may carry greater influence as Bruen jurisprudence develops. Between his analysis in GOA’s previous suit and Thursday’s TRO, Judge Suddaby has laid out a fairly comprehensive look at how courts might use the Bruen standard to evaluate a host of modern gun regulations.
And that could be its most consequential impact.