New York Asks Supreme Court To Stay Out of Gun Rights Case

The case involves new gun restrictions imposed by New York following last year’s landmark Supreme Court decision in New York State Pistol & Rifle Association v. Bruen.

AP/Brittainy Newman
The New York attorney general, Letitia James, during a press conference September 21, 2022. AP/Brittainy Newman

With the future of the Second Amendment right to bear arms in New York pending before the Supreme Court, the state attorney general, Letitia James, is asking the Nine to stay out of the dispute and let lower courts sort out whether New York’s new firearms restrictions pass constitutional muster.

“This Court ordinarily awaits percolation of legal issues in the lower courts before granting review and would benefit from such percolation here,” Ms. James said in a brief filed Tuesday afternoon.

The case involves new gun restrictions imposed by New York following last year’s landmark Supreme Court decision in New York State Pistol & Rifle Association v. Bruen.

In July, Governor Hochul signed into law a number of new requirements on firearm applications and ownership, many of which were seen by Second Amendment advocates as being in open defiance of the Bruen ruling. 

Now — after the riders of the Second Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals allowed the law to take effect amid legal challenges from pro-Second Amendment groups — New York is defending the constitutionality and necessity of the law. 

In New York’s brief, Ms. James says that Second Amendment rights advocates are asking the Supreme Court to take the “extraordinary step” of halting the state’s Concealed Carry Improvement Act from taking effect. 

New York is defending the CCIA on three key points: that previous state law was amended so that a demonstration of “proper cause” is not required, that the law’s restriction on firearms in “sensitive places” is in compliance with the Bruen decision, and that the banning of weapons from others’ private property is constitutional. 

The Second Amendment advocates in the case, Antonyuk v. Nigrelli, asked Justice Sonia Sotomayor — the Second Circuit’s designated justice — to vacate the stay issued by the Second Circuit, which allowed the law to take effect after a federal district court halted key provisions. The representatives of gun owners say that the appeals court allowed the law to take effect in an act of “indefinitely suspending” New Yorkers’ Second Amendment rights. 

The lawsuits began last summer when gun owners sued Mrs. Hochul in two different federal district courts in New York, with both cases eventually making their way to the Second Circuit. 

A federal district judge, Glenn Suddaby, stated that New York’s requirement that applicants demonstrate “good moral character” was not in compliance with Supreme Court precedent. Bruen ruled the state’s demonstration of “proper cause” was unconstitutional, and Judge Suddaby wrote that the new requirement was similar.  

The CCIA was “a wish list of exercise-inhibiting restrictions glued together by a severability clause,” Judge Suddaby concluded.

In another case striking down some of the CCIA’s “sensitive places” provision, a federal district judge, John Sinatra, wrote that the law is “inconsistent with the nation’s historical traditions, impermissibly infringing on the right to keep and bear arms in public for self-defense.” 

Both of these cases — Antonyuk v. Nigrelli, which was before Judge Suddaby, and Hardaway v. Nigrelli, which went before Judge Sinatra  — are set to be heard by the Circuit riders this month. The three judges on the panel set to hear both arguments were appointed by Presidents Clinton, George W. Bush, and Trump. 

In New York’s brief, Ms. James noted that the district judges had blocked “enforcement of vast swaths of the CCIA on a statewide basis.” She contends that the appeal to the Supreme Court amounted to an “extraordinary step” by seeking to overrule the stay imposed by the Circuit riders.

Ms. James also pointed to what she saw as “numerous flaws” in Judge Suddaby’s opinion concerning the standing of the gun owners who filed suit, as well as his “erroneous requirement of a showing of historical evidence to support every challenged restriction regardless of whether the restriction implicated the text of the Second Amendment.”

She also objected to Judge Suddaby’s “use of an improperly rigid analogical methodology.”

The New York Sun

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