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After being told that a state law restricting handguns outside the home in New York violates the U.S. Constitution, lawmakers in the Empire State are responding with defiance.
On June 23, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a New York law requiring that residents must prove a "proper cause" if they want to carry a concealed handgun in public. In an extraordinary special session one week later, however, the New York Legislature passed a bill containing broad measures to blunt the ruling's effect.
"We're not going backwards," Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, said before signing the bill into law. "They might think they can change our lives with the stroke of a pen, but we have pens, too."
Five other states — California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey — have similar laws, and four of them are either following New York's lead or strongly considering it. The Supreme Court ruling doesn't immediately nullify these state laws; it just makes clear that they are unconstitutional and must be revised.
New York's prompt steps to revise its law makes clear that lawmakers there have no intention of rolling over. New York's new law lays out a strict licensing requirement for obtaining a concealed-carry permit, including 16 hours of classroom training, four character references, and a list of social media accounts. It also calls for regular audits of gun permits, strict storage requirements, and the creation of a database to record the sale of ammunition.
The most sweeping part of the new law, though, is a long list of the physical locations where handguns will still be prohibited. The list is essentially a response to Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote in his majority opinion that the state had misapplied the concept of "sensitive places" to substantiate its "proper cause" requirement for public gun carrying. Essentially, he said, that meant the entire state is a sensitive place, which is too broad a definition.
He suggested that sensitive places need to be better defined — and New York's lawmakers took him at his word. The new law provides definitions — many, many of them — in intricate detail.
The following is but a small sampling:
Predictably, some Republicans in the Democrat-controlled New York Legislature are pushing back. Arguing that the law is unconstitutional, Sen. Daniel Stec argues that the law's "sensitive places" definitions would make 700,000-acre Catskill Park off-limits for guns.
Clearly, the law will face constitutional challenges in the weeks or months to come.
Meanwhile, a quick rundown on what the other similarly situated states are doing:
The gun-rights forces have gained steady ground in state legislatures since Florida passed its right to carry law in 1987. Today, 43 states are "shall issue" states, meaning that law enforcement shall issue licenses without requiring applicants to show a proper cause as long as they are not a convicted felon or mentally incompetent.
The states like New York, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey were once the norm. Now they are fighting for survival.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.