New York Makes Second Amendment a Third-Class Right

The justices would be wise to take notice or there will be scant authority left in the Empire State — or others — to any of their rulings.

Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons
Governor Wallace stands at the door at the University of Alabama, June 11, 1963. Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons

Not since Governor George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door has there been such a gesture of resistance to federal authority as we are seeing in New York, where the state just enacted a law eviscerating the Second Amendment rights that only days ago were vouchsafed by the Supreme Court. The justices would be wise to take notice or there will be scant deference left in the Empire State — or others — to any of the high court’s rulings.

That’s what we take from the legislation that was rushed through at Albany and signed by Governor Hochul last night. New York will no longer require gun permit applicants to show a need to carry a gun. It will require them to prove that they have “the essential character, temperament and judgment necessary to be entrusted with a weapon and to use it only in a manner that does not endanger oneself and others,” all to be decided by the state.

Under the new system, the Associated Press reports, “the state won’t authorize permits for people with criminal convictions within the past five years for driving while intoxicated, menacing or third-degree assault.” Plus it will prohibit gun permit holders from carrying their weapons in “sensitive places,” the list of which is so numerous that it effectively would subject gun owners to committing a felony by, say, walking down the wrong street.

Places deemed sensitive, the AP reports, include schools, universities, government buildings, places where people have gathered for public protests, health care facilities, places of worship, libraries, public playgrounds and parks, day care centers, summer camps, addiction and mental health centers, shelters, public transit, bars, theaters, stadiums, museums, polling places and casinos — and the intersection known as Times Square.

Carrying a pistol into a business would be a felony absent a sign saying guns are expressly permitted. This reverses a custom where businesses that don’t want guns are, as the AP put it, “usually required to post signs indicating that weapons aren’t allowed.” This mocks the Supreme Court warning that New York has no basis “to effectively declare” Manhattan a sensitive place “simply because it is crowded and protected” by the NYPD.

Not only that, but the new law would require those seeking gun permits to undergo extensive training, far more than any other state. And, in a move that will outrage many New Yorkers, require applicants for carry permits to turn over to government investigators a list of their social media accounts so officials could, as the AP puts it, verify their “character and conduct.” Imagine having to do that to exercise any other article in the Bill of Rights.

Which brings us back to Governor Wallace. The Democratic governor of Alabama during the battle over integration didn’t want white and black students to sit in the same classrooms. Imagine if he had pretended to be carrying out the Supreme Court’s orders by exempting schools that were too crowded, say, or in the wrong neighborhood — or businesses that failed to post a sign saying that all races were welcome.

In the case of school integration, the Supreme Court ordered that it be accomplished with “all deliberate speed.” If that were the standard in respect of the Second Amendment, New York would never get there. Its new law represents a giant step in the wrong direction, setting what one gleeful Democratic senator at Albany, Brad Hoylman, boasts is a game of “legislative Whac-a-Mole with the Supreme Court.”

Let the justices awake. Writing for the Supreme Court majority, Justice Clarence Thomas warned that the Second Amendment was not a “second-class right.” The new law just passed at Albany takes it down a level yet. In New York, the Second Amendment has just become a third-class right. Unless the Supreme Court finds a way to move quickly, it is destined to remain a third-class right for generations.

The New York Sun

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