New York leaders pledged Thursday to pass legislation broadly restricting the carrying of a gun as soon as possible and criticized the United States Supreme Court for overturning an earlier action in a decision that would affect five other states and tens of millions of Americans.
Governor Kathy Hochul said she would hold a special legislative session as soon as July and outlined a proposal that could let the state maintain some of the country’s strictest gun laws. Democratic leaders in the Legislature pledged to work closely with the governor.
Miss Hochul was visibly angry at a Manhattan press conference where she was preparing to sign a school safety act named for a teenager who was killed in the 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. He called the Supreme Court decision “shocking, absolutely shocking” and said it would make New Yorkers less safe.
“We are already facing 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 publication of a Supreme Court decision, written by Judge Clarence Thomas, that declared unconstitutional the century-old law that gives officials in New York the power to decide who can carry a gun. California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey, which have similar laws, will also be affected by the decision.
Judge Thomas explained that any law restricting the carriage of guns in New York City as a whole was unacceptable to the court.
“Simply put,” he wrote, “there is no historical basis for New York to effectively declare the island of Manhattan a ‘sensitive place’ simply because it is crowded and generally protected by the New York City Police Department.”
The ruling does not affect states with “will issue” laws. The measures give local officials less latitude to decide who can carry weapons, but can still place significant limits on applicants. The difference, described in the same opinion by Judge Brett Kavanaugh, could allow states where the restrictions have broad support to redraw the new rules.
In New York, Ms. Hochul held a meeting with the mayors of six of New York’s largest cities to discuss potential legislation. He said leaders were drafting changes to the law governing licensing, which could potentially require additional training. They also plan to identify so-called sensitive locations where weapons will not be allowed. Ms. Hochul refused to expand on the possible locations while the lawmakers were debating, but he believed that the subway should be between them.
The state’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority is already drafting rules to keep guns away from subways, trains and buses, Paige Graves, the general counsel, said in a statement.
Ms. Hochul added that he hopes to establish a system under which handguns will be banned in private business, unless the owner officially allows it.
Joseph Blocher, a Second Amendment expert at Duke University School of Law in North Carolina, said some of the proposals could meet the specifications the Supreme Court set in its ruling, but warned that tough questions would inevitably arise.
For example, he explained, officials might ban guns within 100 feet of a school or government building, and such a buffer zone could keep large parts of a city off limits. But he said that whether such restrictions would be admissible in court was an open question.
New York law is not out of the books yet. The case is now returning to a lower court — the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit — which is expected to take turns to Federal District Court in New York, said Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who specializes in in constitutional law and gun policy.
The court would likely give New York a grace period, instead of passing the law straight away, said Mr. Winkler.
“We’ve seen this happen in the past where courts have given MPs time so they can adopt legislation,” he said. In this case, he added the alternative would be to “have everyone carry a gun on the streets of New York.”
New York officials rushed to explain that the decision would not take effect immediately.
“Nothing has changed today,” Mayor Eric Adams said at a City Hall press conference. He called the ruling “terrible” and said it could undermine efforts to improve security. The arms trade from other states, most of the so-called I-95 Iron Pipes, may no longer be necessary, he said.
“The Iron Pipe will be Van Wyck,” the mayor said, referring to the motorway that goes through Queens. “Weapons will be bought here.”
The city’s police commissioner, Keechant Sewell, warned that as long as current laws apply, “If you carry a gun illegally in New York City, you will be arrested.”
New York has a series of rules that are not affected by court decisions. The SAFE Act, passed in 2013, prohibits assault-style weapons with military features, requires background checks for nearly all sales and shipments of ammunition and firearms, and prohibits people convicted of certain offences from owning weapons. The so-called red flag law, enacted in 2019, allows officials to request firearms orders from people they believe will engage in dangerous behavior.
Several New Yorkers celebrated the court’s decision. Republican candidates for governor Lee Zeldin and Andrew Giuliani both praised the decision.
Zeldin, a congressman and favorite to run, called the decision a “defense of the constitutional rights of law-abiding New Yorkers that have been under attack for too long.”
And Andrew Chernoff, owner of the Coliseum Gun Traders in Uniondale, Long Island, said it was “more than just a pro-gun decision.”
“This has a bigger message — and the bigger message is that you can’t twist and change the Constitution as you see fit,” said Mr. Chernoff, who has been in business since 1979.
Several public defense organizations in New York City also supported the decision, saying the law had previously been used to discriminate against minority clients.
“More than 90 percent of people prosecuted for possession of an unlicensed firearm in New York City are black and brown,” the coalition of public defenders said in a statement. “These are people who have been affected by New York’s discriminatory gun licensing scheme, which has fueled the criminalization and detention of young New Yorkers of color.”
Their statement called on the Legislature to draft gun laws that would address violence without perpetuating discrimination.
But at the press conference across the street from City Hall, the legislator Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus said the decision would put their constituents and their communities at risk.
“If, in fact, anyone and everyone could get a license to get a gun and ride the subway, and in our parks, and in our theaters and at our concerts, we’d be in big trouble,” Senator Robert Jackson said.
New York officials have been battling gun crime. Between 2019 and 2021, the number of shootings resulting in injuries doubled in New York City. And overall shooting rates in 20 other counties, including Albany, Buffalo and Rochester, rose sharply during that period, according to City and country data.
While criminologists disagree about what is driving the increase in violence, many point to the disruption caused by the pandemic and the easy flow of weapons into New York from states with looser restrictions.
Studies have shown that right-to-carry laws are associated with higher rates of violent crime. One study from the National Bureau of Economic Research in 2017 found that the law was associated with as much as 15 percent “higher aggregate violent crime rates.”
Zellnor Myrie, a Democratic state senator from Brooklyn who is one of the Legislative’s leading voices on gun violence, said the court’s decision came as he attended elementary school graduation across from the 36th Street subway station in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, where 10 people are. . shot and dozens injured when a gunman opened fire on a train in April.
“I just think about the kids I’ve just seen graduating, who have to live in a city, state or country where the government prefers guns over their lives,” he said.
Rubinstein Fund, Hurubie Meko and Chelsea Rose Marcius contribution reporting.