New York leaders pledged Thursday to pass legislation broadly limiting handgun carrying as quickly as possible and criticized the US Supreme Court for overturning an earlier measure in a decision that would affect five other states and tens of millions of Americans.
Governor Cathy Hochhol said she will convene a special legislative session as soon as July and has laid out proposals that could allow the state to maintain some of the country’s most restrictive gun laws. Democratic leaders in the legislature promised to work with the governor.
Ms. Hoechul was visibly angry at a press conference in Manhattan as she was preparing to sign a school safety measure named for a teenager killed in the 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. She called the Supreme Court’s decision “shocking, very shocking” and said it would make New Yorkers less safe.
“We are already dealing with a major gun violence crisis,” Ms. Hochhol said. “We don’t need to add more fuel to this fire.”
Her comments came minutes after the publication of the Supreme Court’s ruling, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, which declared unconstitutional a century-old law that gives New York officials broad power to determine who can carry guns. California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey, which have similar laws, will also be affected by the decision.
Judge Thomas made it clear that any law restricting the carrying of guns in New York City as a whole would be inadmissible to the court.
He wrote: “There is simply no historical basis for New York to effectively declare the island of Manhattan a ‘sensitive place’ simply because it is crowded and is generally protected by the New York City Police Department.”
The ruling did not affect states that have “must pass” laws. These procedures give local officials less discretion to decide who can carry a gun, but they can still place significant restrictions on applicants. The distinction, articulated in a consensual opinion of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, may allow states where restrictions have broad support to redraw new rules.
In New York, Ms. Hochhol held a meeting with the mayors of New York’s six largest cities to discuss potential legislation. She said commanders are devising changes to the laws governing permits, which may require additional training. They also plan to identify so-called sensitive sites where the use of weapons is not permitted. Ms Hochhol declined to expand on potential sites while discussing lawmakers, but said she believed the subway should be among them.
The state’s metropolitan transportation authority is already drafting rules to ban guns from subways, trains and buses, Paige Graves, his general counsel, said in a statement.
Ms Hochhol added that she hoped to establish a system whereby the use of handguns in private businesses would be prohibited, unless the owners officially allow it.
Some of these proposals could meet the specifications set by the Supreme Court in its ruling, Joseph Blocher, a Second Amendment expert at Duke University Law School in North Carolina, said, but cautioned that difficult questions would inevitably arise.
He explained, for example, that officials might prohibit guns within 100 feet of a school or government building, and that such buffer zones could make much of a city off-limits. But he said whether these kinds of restrictions will win a rally before the courts is an open question.
New York law is not off the books yet. Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, said the case now belongs to a lower court — the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit — which in turn is expected to send it to the federal district court in New York, Los Angeles, specializing in constitutional law and gun policy.
That court would likely give New York a grace period, Winkler said, rather than immediately overturn the law.
“We’ve seen this happen in the past where courts have given lawmakers some time to be able to 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 would not take effect immediately.
“Nothing changes today,” Mayor Eric Adams said at a city council news conference. He described the ruling as “appalling” and said it could undermine efforts to increase safety. He said smuggling weapons from other countries, many on the so-called I-95 iron pipeline, may no longer be necessary.
“The railroad will be Van Wyck,” the mayor said, referring to the highway running through Queens. “Weapons will be purchased from here.”
The city’s 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 set of regulations that were not affected by the court’s decision. The SAFE Act, passed in 2013, bans assault weapons with military features, requires background checks on nearly all sales and transfers of ammunition and firearms and prohibits people convicted of certain crimes from possessing weapons. The so-called red flag law, enacted in 2019, allows officials to request orders to recall firearms from people they believe will engage in harmful behavior.
Some New Yorkers celebrated the court’s decision. Republican gubernatorial candidates Lee Zelden and Andrew Giuliani praised the ruling.
Zelden, a congressman and presumed favorite for the nomination, called the decision “a defense of the constitutional rights of law-abiding New Yorkers who have been under attack for far too long.”
It’s “more than just a pro-gun decision,” said Andrew Chernoff, owner of Coliseum Gun Traders in Uniondale, Long Island.
“It has a bigger message – and the bigger message is that you can’t amend and transform the constitution at will,” said Mr. Chernov, who has been in business since 1979.
Several New York City public defense organizations also supported the ruling, saying the law had previously been used to discriminate against minority clients.
“More than 90 percent of people prosecuted for possession of unlicensed guns in New York City are black and white,” a coalition of public defense groups said in a statement. “These are the people affected by New York’s discriminatory gun licensing scheme, which has fueled the criminalization and imprisonment of young people of color in New York.”
Their statement called on the legislature to design weapons systems that address violence without perpetuating discrimination.
But at a press conference across the street from City Hall, members of the legislature Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Assembly They said the decision would put their constituents and communities at risk.
“In fact, if anyone and everyone could get a license to get a gun and ride the subway, in our parks, in our movie theaters, and at our concerts, we’d have a big problem,” he said. Senator Robert Jackson.
New York officials were already battling gun crime. Between 2019 and 2021, the number of shootings resulting in casualties doubled in New York City. The overall rate of shootings in 20 other areas, including Albany, Buffalo and Rochester, rose sharply during that time, according to the city and condition data.
While criminologists disagree about what’s driving the uptick in violence, many point to the disruption caused by the pandemic and the easy flow of guns into New York from states with loosened restrictions.
Studies have shown that pregnancy right laws are associated with higher rates of violent crime. One study from the National Bureau of Economic Research In 2017, it found such laws were associated with up to 15 percent “higher overall rates of violent crime.”
Zellnor Merry, a Democratic senator from Brooklyn, who is one of the leading voices in the legislature on gun violence, said the court’s decision came as he attended his elementary school graduation across from the 36th Street subway station in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, where he was There are 10 people. Shot dead and dozens injured when a gunman opened fire on a train in April.
“I only think of the kids I just saw graduating, who have to live in a city, state, or country where the government chooses guns over their lives,” he said.
Dana RubinsteinAnd the Miko escape And the Chelsea Rose Marcius Contribute to the preparation of reports.