Gun Rights Group Seeks Second Knockout Against Firearms Rules
ALBANY — The New York gun rights group that convinced the U.S. Supreme Court the state’s concealed carry rules were unconstitutional filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking to overturn new legislation state officials say corrects the defects in the previous statute.
In legal briefs filed in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District, the New York Rifle and Pistol Association argued the new legislation called for by Gov. Kathy Hochul “replaces one unconstitutional, discretionary law with another unconstitutional, discretionary law.”
That legislation, dubbed the Concealed Carry Improvement Act, “contains a slew of burdensome and discriminatory requirements for obtaining a Handgun Carry License,” the lawsuit maintained. It charged that the new rules, which take effect today (September 1) violate a variety of federal constitutional protections, including the right to free speech, the right to bear arms and the right to due process and equal protection.
The lawsuit was filed the same day Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams Eric Adams held a press conference in Manhattan. They displayed “gun free zone” signs being placed at hundreds of locations in New York City, including Times Square, a major tourist attraction.
State officials acknowledged New Yorkers who legally obtained their firearms and were approved for pistol permits by licensing authorities will face felony charges under the new law simply for entering a “sensitive” area designated as a gun-free zone.
Hochul said the onus is on gun owners to understand their responsibilities under the new legislation, adding the signs will serve as warnings and noting the effort to restrict guns will come with public education campaigns. Concealed carry permit holders and others who obtained firearms legally who enter a gun-free zone while possessing a firearm, even if they do so without knowing of the restriction, will face felony charges, the governor said.
“If you violate this law, you will be arrested. Simple as that,” warned State Police First Deputy Superintendent Steven Nigrelli.
The new gun legislation was one of several state initiatives Hochul cited later Wednesday in a new fundraising appeal for her campaign. Hochul, who replaced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo a year ago, is being challenged by Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-Long Island, a staunch supporter of gun rights and critic of the new gun measures.
Pistol permit applicants will now have to turn over a list of their current and past social media accounts over a three-year period and identify their spouse and other occupants of their homes.
To get a pistol permit, applicants must complete 16 hours of firearms safety instruction, and demonstrate they are proficient with the safe use of a firearm with two hours of live-fire training.
Under separate state legislation passed in June, beginning Sunday, New Yorkers must have a permit to buy semi-automatic rifles. Also that day, persons under 21 years of age will be barred from purchasing semi-automatic rifles. The state already requires persons to be at least 21 years old to possess handguns.
The new laws requiring state permits for semi-automatic rifles and having records kept of their ammunition purchases, also taking effect Sunday, has been causing a flurry of activity at the shops of New York gun dealers as consumers seek to stock up before those measures go on the books Sunday.
At his store, Gunner’s Dream in the Delaware County community of Sidney, U.S. Marine Corps veteran James Orezzoli, said he has had numerous customers buying semi-automatic rifles and ammunition in advance of the new laws taking effect.
“A big concern for many people is the ammunition registration and database,” Orezzoli said. “Our understanding is we are going to have to keep track of when people buy ammunition, and take down their name, address, which ammo they bought, the name of their employer, and then keep that information, and then eventually it gets turned into a database.”
Assemblyman Joe Angelino, R-Norwich, a critic of the new gun restrictions, said he sees no benefits to public safety from expansion of requirements to acquire pistol permits. He said he believes the state is trying to inhibit gun sales. He noted just a small number of independent firearms dealers he knows in the Norwich area provide local governments with a significant infusion of sales tax receipts.
Angelino said his message to those gun dealers is: ” Please don’t get discouraged. That’s what they want.”
The assemblyman, the former police chief for the city of Norwich, also argued the state won’t make any gains in fighting crime by targeting law-abiding gun owners.
But Hochul contended the new restrictions were necessary. She attacked the Supreme Court decision siding with the New York Rifle and Pistol Association as “negligent and reprehensible.”
New York City Mayor Eric Adams, top official in a metropolis plagued by gun violence, also lambasted the Supreme Court justices. He blamed them for making it necessary to have schools, subways, government buildings and churches declared “sensitive” areas where guns are prohibited.
“I never thought from the days of watching cowboy movies as a child that ‘leave your gun at the door’ would become reality in the state of New York,” said Adams. Like Hochul, Adams is a Democrat.
Tom King, president of the Rifle and Pistol Association, said Hochul’s repeated attacks on the Supreme Court justices were disturbing.
“I’m surprised Kathy Hochul would use this press conference as a method of attacking the Supreme Court justices tasked with determining the unconstitutionality of laws in the United States,” King told CNHI. “As an officer of the court and an elected official, she should realize what she’s doing is prohibitive of the rights of the people. She should look at herself in the mirror and say: ‘Am I really a non-partisan politician who’s here for the good of the people?'”