Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling late last month that New York’s 110-year-old concealed carry law was unconstitutional, the Empire State’s Democrat-controlled legislature and left-wing accidental governor, Kathy Hochul, wasted no time reaffirming that they will go to any lengths to prevent its citizens from lawfully carrying firearms outside the home for personal protection.
The new law, signed over the weekend by Hochul, almost certainly will ultimately be thrown out by the federal courts. However, the state’s lawmakers know that such a process likely will take many months if not years to be finally decided, and that for at least that period of time, they will be free to continue denying citizens the right to protect themselves in public.
The immediate impetus for New York’s latest anti-gun maneuver was the Supreme Court’s 6-3 opinion in New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn., Inc. v. Bruen, issued June 23. As recited by Justice Clarence Thomas in his majority opinion, the prior law, known commonly as the “Sullivan Act,” was constitutionally defective because it placed far too much discretion in the hands of local state officials to arbitrarily deny an applicant a concealed carry permit unless he or she convinced them that they had a unique, “proper cause” to carry a concealed firearm outside their home.
For more than a century, this provision worked to prevent all but a very select few New Yorkers from carrying a gun to protect themselves in public (open carry is not permitted in the state, so concealed carry is the only alternative).
In signing the new and highly restrictive legislation over the Independence Day weekend, Hochul and leaders in the legislature openly threw down a gauntlet to the Supreme Court, declaring that its Bruen decision was an “assault on our democracy” that would not deter New York in its continuing mission to enact “sensible gun regulations.”
By any objective measure, however, the provisions in state Senate Bill S.51001 are anything but “sensible.” In some respects, the new law is even more restrictive than its predecessor.
Beginning Sept. 1, when the new law is to take effect, no law-abiding New Yorker would be eligible to obtain a carry permit without first convincing the state police that he or she possesses “the essential character, temperament and judgment necessary to be entrusted with a weapon and to use it only in a manner that does not endanger oneself or others.”
This vague and undefined criteria is but one of many conditions an applicant must meet to the satisfaction of state law enforcement officials. Others include character references, family background information, and access to their social media accounts for three years prior. These and many other criteria are buttressed by a catchall requirement that allows the permitting authority to demand, “such other information required by the licensing officer that is reasonably necessary and related to the licensing application.”
Were a New York carry permit applicant ever successful in meeting these burdensome and arbitrary roadblocks, the places where he or she could actually and lawfully carry a firearm are so limited as to render the permit almost useless. For example, the permit holder could not carry a gun:
- In a subway station
- In Times Square
- In any public park
- At any public or private school
- On any restricted sidewalk
- Into any private property unless the owner thereof has publicly posted a notice that such carry is expressly permitted
In yet another unreasonable, if not absurd restriction, if a permit holder has a gun in their vehicle that happens not to be in their “immediate possession or control,” it has to have the ammunition removed and then secured in a “safe storage depository” (not the glove box) that cannot be seen from outside the vehicle.
Surprisingly, the new law does provide an appeal process; not surprisingly, however, it is virtually meaningless. Any appeal goes to the superintendent of state police, which would have been the denying authority in the first instance, and then to the state attorney general, who also has been consistently opposed to citizens being able to carry firearms.
Law-abiding New Yorkers who wish to be permitted to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to defend themselves with a firearm in any public place likely to present a threat, had best be prepared for yet further lengthy and costly battles in court in order to do so.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.