As a threat of violence hangs over their heads, a group of Jewish gun owners in New York is asking a federal judge to allow them to carry guns in their places of worship.
Plaintiffs in Goldstein v. Hochul, backed by the NY State Jewish Gun Club, sent a letter on Thursday to federal judge Vernon Broderick of New York’s southern district, an Obama appointee, asking him to issue a preliminary injunction against the state’s new gun-carry law. The group is challenging a provision that bars everyone, including those with valid licenses, from carrying a gun at any place of worship inside the state. It said the FBI’s recent warning of credible threats against synagogues in neighboring New Jersey was further evidence Judge Broderick needs to issue an order against the ban immediately.
“The absence of a decision in this matter means that plaintiffs can neither exercise their fundamental right to self-defense in “places of worship or religious observation” nor seek review and redress from the Second Circuit to allow them to do so,” Ameer Benno, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said. “This has real-world consequences. Hours ago, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) released a bulletin that it had received ‘credible information of a broad threat to synagogues’ in New Jersey.”
The FBI reported they had identified the source of the threats on Friday and verified there was no longer a “danger to the community.” But the group said the warning, coupled with the rising rate of violent crimes targeting Jews in the state, demands action from Judge Vernon.
“The Southern District Court still has not made a decision as to whether to enjoin the law that the NYPD and the AG say will be enforced while the FBI reports antisemitic activity in an area where Jews were targeted and killed previously,” Cory Morris, another lawyer for the plaintiffs, told The Reload. “Our clients have to choose between being felons or losing their faith every minute this Court fails to act.”
Lawmakers passed New York’s latest gun-carry regime in response to the Supreme Court striking down the state’s previous law as unconstitutional. State lawmakers promoted it as a rebuke to the Court, but judges have blocked significant portions in two separate federal cases. The places of worship restriction, which is the strictest example in the country, has been found unconstitutional by both federal judges. Judge Glenn Suddaby of the Northern District of New York issued a temporary restraining order in early October against most of the law’s controversial provisions, including the church and synagogue ban. Judge John Sinatra of the Western District of New York issued a preliminary injunction on Thursday that extended his previous temporary restraining order blocking the state from enforcing its places of worship gun-carry ban.
However, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has stayed Suddaby’s order pending an appeal from the state. New York City and the state have also contended they can still enforce the provision in New York’s southern district despite the ruling in the western district. That means Judge Broderick will have to weigh in on the validity of the state’s ban. His decision will determine whether Jewish worshipers, or those of any other faith, will be allowed to carry guns to defend themselves during services legally. Benno argued the timeframe of that decision would matter a great deal as well.
“Shakespeare stated that ‘delays have dangerous ends,'” he wrote in his letter to Judge Broderick. “The longer this drags on, the more lives are being placed in grave jeopardy. The Western District understood this and acted expeditiously. We urge this Court to do the same.”
Benno said some Jewish worshipers want to arm themselves to prepare for possible attacks, especially in the wake of the recent FBI warning. However, New York has removed any avenue for doing so without breaking the law.
“While the FBI has asked that the threatened areas’ take all security precautions’ to protect their communities and facilities, and while the Ramapo Police Department has asked ‘that Houses of Worship increase their security posture,’ New York State’s categorical prohibitions on firearm possession in places of worship or religious observation make doing so impossible,” he wrote in the letter.
Morris noted the case sits at the intersection of the First and Second Amendments.
“New York made religious observation while carrying a legal firearm a felony,” he told The Reload. “The law, created in an irrational response to a Supreme Court decision, now disarms Jews as they prepare to engage in religious observation, the sabbath, among other things.”