New York leaders pledged Thursday to pass legislation broadly restricting gun ownership as soon as possible and criticized the US Supreme Court for overturning an earlier measure in a decision that will affect five other states already. tens of millions of Americans.
Gov. Kathy Hochul said she would call a special legislative session in July and outlined proposals that could allow the state to keep some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country. Democratic leaders in the Legislature promised to work with the governor.
Ms. Hochul was visibly angry at a news conference in Manhattan where she was preparing to sign a school safety measure named after a teenager killed in the 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. She called the Supreme Court’s decision “shocking, absolutely shocking” and said it would make New Yorkers less safe.
“We are already dealing with a major gun violence crisis,” said Ms. Hochul. “We don’t need to add more fuel to this fire.”
His comments came minutes after the release of the Supreme Court decision, authored by Justice Clarence Thomas, that declared unconstitutional a century-old law that gives New York officials broad authority to decide who can bear arms. California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey, which have similar laws, will also be affected by the decision.
Justice Thomas made it clear that any law restricting the carrying of weapons in New York City in general would be unacceptable to the court.
“Simply put,” he wrote, “there is no historical basis for New York to effectively declare Manhattan Island a ‘sensitive location’ simply because it is overcrowded and generally protected by the New York City Police Department.” .
The ruling did not affect states with “shall issue” laws. Those measures give local officials less discretion in deciding who can carry weapons, but can still place significant restrictions on applicants. The distinction, clarified in a concurring opinion by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, may allow states where the restrictions have broad support to rewrite new rules.
In New York, Ms. Hochul called a meeting with the mayors of New York’s six largest cities to discuss potential legislation. She said leaders were devising changes to the laws governing permits, which could require additional training. They also plan to identify so-called sensitive places where weapons would not be allowed. Ms. Hochul declined to expand on possible locations while lawmakers debate, but she said she believed subways should be among them.
The state Metropolitan Transportation Authority is already drafting rules to keep guns off subways, trains and buses, Paige Graves, its general counsel, said in a statement.
Ms. Hochul added that she hoped to establish a system where firearms would be prohibited in private businesses, unless the owners formally permitted them.
Joseph Blocher, a Second Amendment expert at Duke University School of Law in North Carolina, said some of those proposals could meet the specifications the Supreme Court set out in its ruling, but warned that difficult questions would inevitably arise.
For example, he explained, officials could ban guns within 100 feet of a school or government building, and such buffer zones could make a substantial part of a city off limits. But he said whether such restrictions would be approved by the courts was an open question.
New York law is not yet off the books. The case is now going back to a lower court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which is expected to send it in turn to the United States District Court in New York, said Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California. Los Angeles, specializing in constitutional law and gun policy.
That court is likely to give New York a grace period, rather than strike down the law outright, Winkler said.
“We have seen this happen in the past, where the courts have given lawmakers some time so they can adopt a law,” he said. In this case, he added, the alternative would be “everyone carrying guns on the streets of New York.”
New York officials were quick to explain that the decision will not take effect immediately.
“Nothing changes today,” Mayor Eric Adams said at a news conference at City Hall. He called the ruling “appalling” and said it could undermine efforts to increase security. Arms trafficking from other states, much of it on the so-called I-95 Iron Pipeline, would no longer be necessary, he said.
“The Iron Pipeline is going to be the Van Wyck,” the mayor said, referring to the highway that runs through Queens. “Weapons are going to be bought here.”
City Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell warned that as long as the current law remains in place, “if you carry a gun illegally in New York City, you will be arrested.”
New York has a variety of regulations that are not affected by the court’s decision. The SAFE Act, passed in 2013, bans assault weapons with military features, requires background checks for almost all sales and transfers of ammunition and firearms, and prohibits people convicted of certain crimes from owning weapons. A so-called red flag law, enacted in 2019, allows officials to request orders to take firearms from people they believe will engage in harmful conduct.
Some New Yorkers celebrated the court’s decision. Republican gubernatorial candidates Lee Zeldin and Andrew Giuliani applauded the ruling.
Mr. Zeldin, a congressman and presumptive front-runner for the nomination, called the decision a “defense for the constitutional rights of law-abiding New Yorkers who have been under attack for far too long.”
And Andrew Chernoff, owner of Gun Traders Coliseum in Uniondale, Long Island, said it was “more than just a pro-gun decision.”
“It has a bigger message, and the bigger message is that you can’t twist and change the Constitution to your liking,” said Mr. Chernoff, who has been in business since 1979.
Several public defender organizations in New York City also supported the ruling, saying the law had previously been used to discriminate against minority clients.
“More than 90 percent of people prosecuted for unlicensed gun possession in New York City are Black and Brown,” a coalition of public defender groups said in a statement. “These are the people affected by New York’s discriminatory gun licensing scheme, which has fueled the criminalization and incarceration of young New Yorkers of color.”
His statement called on the Legislature to design gun regulations that address violence without perpetuating discrimination.
But at a news conference across the street from City Hall, members of the legislature Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus He said the decision will endanger his constituents and communities.
“If, in fact, anyone and everyone can get a license to get a gun and ride the subway, in our parks, in our movie theaters and at our concerts, we’re going to be in big trouble,” he said. Senator Robert Jackson.
New York officials had already been struggling to combat gun crime. Between 2019 and 2021, the number of shootings that resulted in injuries doubled in New York City. And the overall rate of shootings in 20 other areas, including Albany, Buffalo and Rochester, rose sharply during that period, according to the city and condition data.
While criminologists disagree about what’s driving the rise in violence, many point to disruptions caused by the pandemic and the easy flow of guns into New York from states with looser restrictions.
Studies have shown that gun rights laws are associated with higher rates of violent crime. A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research in 2017 found that such laws were associated with up to 15 percent “higher aggregate violent crime rates.”
Zellnor Myrie, a Democratic state senator from Brooklyn who is one of the Legislature’s leading voices on gun violence, said the court’s decision came as he was attending an elementary school graduation across from the station. 36th Street subway train in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, where 10 people were shot and dozens wounded when a gunman opened fire aboard a train in April.
“I just think about the kids that I just watched graduate, who have to live in a city, state or country where the government prefers guns to their lives,” he said.
Diana Rubinstein, Hurubie Meko Y chelsia rose marcio contributed report.