ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – On Monday, a federal judge suspended parts of new gun restrictions that kicked in in New York in September, after a century-old law was struck down over the summer in New York State Supreme Court. The suspension comes as the result of a legal challenge from Gun Owners of America, a pro-gun rights advocacy group concerned that the new rules will limit gun ownership and individual constitutional rights, especially in regards to concealed carry.
The law in question is the Concealed Carry Improvement Act. Parts of the act being frozen in place include provisions that would require family contact information and social media accounts, as well as changes to where conceal and carry can be enforced. Those changes were set to restrict firearms from certain locations. Monday’s injunction means that, for now, that list has moved in the opposite direction from where Gun Owners of America wants it.
“The main objective was to begin more restrictions in public areas such as polling places, movie theaters, things of that nature,” said Ryan McCall, an associate with Albany law firm Tully Rinckey PLLC. “What has now happened as of the preliminary injunction on Monday is that they are restricting that entirely. The only real protected places where you can’t bring your concealed carry firearm are courthouses, polling places and schools. Other things previously thrown in there – like parks, movie theaters and restaurants – are struck entirely.”
The challenge from Gun Owners of America is the first step of a process that McCall says could take anywhere from a few weeks to a few years. The right to bear arms stands as part of the U.S. Constitution.
In a case where an organization sees an amendment like this as unconstitutional, they then have the ability to move up the federal court chain. That path starts at the District Court level, followed by the Court of Appeals, and finally the Supreme Court. In the case of the Concealed Carry Improvement Act, the road looks long.
“I will point out that this is the second time that this has been struck down,” said McCall. “This is something that I think we’re going to begin seeing through the Federal Court chain through the presumably long future.”
The same judge – U.S. District Judge Glenn Suddaby – first struck down parts of the law in early October. That strike would remove prohibitions against concealed firearms at locations including Times Square, public transit systems, restaurants, and homeless shelters, among others.
NEWS10 spoke to McCall on Tuesday, Nov. 8 – Election Day. With New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul facing a challenge from Republican Lee Zeldin, the question is relevant – how much power does the New York Governor’s Office have in who can carry what?
“It really depends on the individual governor’s policy. The good news is, in my opinion, that the governor has somewhat limited power when it comes to gun laws and concealed carry. There are other channels that this needs to go through, such as the Assembly and the Senate. It really depends on the legislation that’s going forward.”
The state law came about following a Supreme Court decision in June, striking down the state law that had put restrictions on what it would take to acquire a permit to concealed carry a handgun outside the home. The 6-3 decision struck down the state’s requirement that concealed carry applicants present proof of a special need for concealed carry.
“We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need,” wrote Justice Clarence Thomas, following the decision in June. “That is not how the First Amendment works when it comes to unpopular speech or the free exercise of religion. It is not how the Sixth Amendment works when it comes to a defendant’s right to confront the witnesses against him. And it is not how the Second Amendment works when it comes to public carry for self-defense.”