Gun Rights Groups File Lawsuit Over NYC Carry Laws

New York City managed to avoid Supreme Court scrutiny earlier this year by changing a gun control law that was facing a SCOTUS challenge, but it’s highly unlikely they’ll do the same in order to moot the latest lawsuit filed against the city over its draconian gun laws. The Second Amendment Foundation and Firearms Policy Coalition are bringing new litigation to federal court, this time taking on the city’s concealed carry laws.

“The right to bear arms must be available to all citizens in New York, not just wealthy people and celebrities,” said SAF Founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb. “Like other rights protected by the Constitution, that right is not limited to the confines of one’s home. Ever since the SAF Supreme Court victory in McDonald v. City of Chicago ten years ago, the Second Amendment absolutely applies in New York.”

The case, known as Greco v. City of New York, attacks New York City’s policies, which make it virtually impossible for the average citizen to obtain a license to carry. Because the New York Police Department requires all applicants to demonstrate “proper cause,” and because self-defense or your Second Amendment rights aren’t seen as a valid reason to receive a government permission slip to exercise your right to bear arms, there are only about 30,000 concealed carry permits in the city of more than 8-million people.  

“People in New York have a right to carry a loaded handgun in public for self-defense, and contrary to what Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio think, the Constitution fully applies in the City and State of New York,” said FPC President Brandon Combs. “The Supreme Court in Heller was clear that to ‘bear’ arms means to ‘carry’ them on the person in case of confrontation.’ Anything that denies a law-abiding citizen the ability to exercise that right is unconstitutional, period.”

“Like the lawsuit against New Jersey’s carry ban we filed earlier this week, we are suing New York City over their unconstitutional ban that prevents typical, law-abiding people from carry loaded, operable handguns on their person in public places,” explained attorney Adam Kraut, FPC’s Director of Legal Strategy. “The State of New York and New York City have enacted broad criminal laws to prohibit the carry of handguns, and then set up an unconstitutional requirement for the issuance of a license to carry, thus completely foreclosing the right. This case seeks to strike down these laws and allow New Yorkers and visitors to exercise the right to bear arms as they are entitled to.”

The vast majority of gun-related arrests in New York City are related to being in possession of a handgun without a license, and the vast majority of those those cases involve young minority males without any serious criminal history, but who may find the risk of prosecution less of a threat than going unarmed and defenseless in their neighborhoods. If New York City had a “shall issue” process that removed the “proper cause” requirement, many of those guys would be eligible to legally carry a firearm, but because of the city’s gun control laws they’re faced with the prospect of years in prison if they’re caught with a gun or being the victim of a violent crime as they’re walking home from work or hanging out with friends.

In addition, New York City’s carry laws foster corruption. Because of the broad leeway given to the NYPD Licensing Bureau, there are plenty of opportunities to offer a bribe in order to ensure approval. As former NYPD Supervisor David Villanueva testified a couple of years ago, the Licensing Bureau was a “bribery machine” until several cops were busted.

Villanueva gave the testimony at the Manhattan federal court trial of John Chambers, a self-described gun lawyer to the stars accused of plying Villanueva with lavish gifts, including an $8,500 diamond-studded watch and tickets to Broadway shows, in exchange for gun permits.

Villanueva, who pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the feds, walked the jury through each expeditor.

Frank Soohoo, who pleaded guilty in 2016, plied Villanueva and Ochetel with trips to the Bahamas, Mexico and Hawaii, the ex-police sergeant said. Soohoo also threw lavish parties at his Queens gun store for the officers and occasionally hired hookers to attend, Villanueva said.

In exchange, Soohoo got help getting permits, including advice on how to help a client who was “federally barred” from legally owning a gun, Villanueva said.

Expeditor Alex “Shaya” Lichtenstein, who has also pleaded guilty, paid $1,000 per gun permit, Villanueva said. In exchange, he was granted at least 100 of them between 2012 and 2015 — none of which should have been approved because paperwork was missing, Villanueva said.

People went to prison over this scandal, but the officers in the Licensing Bureau have just as much subjective power as they did before the scandal came to light, and there’s nothing other than individual honor or integrity to stop this from happening again. If the city were to adopt a “shall issue” system, on the other hand, it would remove the opportunity for corruption completely, though it would mean many more New Yorkers lawfully exercising their right to bear arms. For New York City, that’s a tradeoff they’re unwilling to make.

Who knows at this point what the makeup of the Supreme Court will be by the time the Greco case could be heard, but in the wake of Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Court both SAF and FPC had said they would be looking at new cases to bring, and overturning New York City’s carry laws would be a huge victory for gun owners throughout the United States. Let’s hope we still have a SCOTUS that hasn’t been packed with anti-gun justices when Greco arrives on its doorstep.