There’s a distinct possibility that within the next three or four months, the U.S. Supreme Court is going to strike down New York’s subjective “may issue” carry laws on constitutional grounds. Even before that decision comes down, however, some anti-gun politicians in the state are already laying the groundwork to blunt the impact of that potential outcome by pushing legislation that would make carrying a firearm a criminal offense in many public spaces.
The Buffalo News’ Rod Watson, who’s hardly a Second Amendment stalwart, writes that he used to roll his eyes when gun owners would warn that a particular gun control bill was a slippery slope towards gun confiscation, but after taking a look at the new bill, he thinks those gun owners may have been onto something.
Assembly Bill 8684 would finish the job of disarming law-abiding New Yorkers once they leave home. The bill summary says it all: “Prohibits firearms in certain locations, including but not limited to all forms of public transportation, large gatherings, and food and drink establishments.”
I suppose you could have your gun in a telephone booth – provided you don’t take the bus to get there.
The bill is a pre-emptive end-around what gun-banners fear will be a U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down New York’s mandate that citizens show “proper cause” for wanting to carry a gun. Apparently, defending your life isn’t cause enough.
Instead, applicants must show some special need beyond that of the average person. That provision leaves it to the discretion of a judge to decide if law-abiding citizens can exercise the right to bear arms, subjecting a constitutional right to all manner of favoritism, cronyism or political bias.
The New York State Rifle and Pistol Association is challenging the restriction in a case now before the U.S. Supreme Court.
And that has scared the bejabbers out of Brooklyn Democrat Jo Anne Simon, who introduced the bill last month and makes no secret of what drove her to such madness. The “justification” section of the bill claims that “the possibility for harm is great should the current rules be declared unconstitutional.”
“They’re trying to circumvent the Supreme Court,” said Tom King, Rifle & Pistol Association president.
You can read the bill, which is currently before the Assembly Codes Committee, here, but I’ve highlighted the most salient and egregiously unconstitutional piece of the legislation below:
A person is guilty of criminal possession of a firearm when he or she...KNOWINGLY HAS IN HIS OR HER POSSESSION A RIFLE, SHOTGUN, OR FIREARM IN OR UPON THE FOLLOWING LOCATIONS: (A) ANY FORM OF PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO RAILROADS, RIDE SHARING SERVICES, PARATRANSIT SERVICES, SUBWAYS, BUSES, AIR TRAVEL, TAXIS OR ANY OTHER PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION SERVICE; (B) FOOD AND DRINK ESTABLISHMENTS; OR (C) LARGE GATHERINGS, WHICH FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS SECTION SHALL MEAN A GATHERING TOGETHER OF FIFTEEN OR MORE PERSONS FOR AMUSEMENT, ATHLETIC, CIVIC, DINING, EDUCATIONAL, ENTERTAINMENT, PATRIOTIC, POLI- TICAL, RECREATIONAL, RELIGIOUS, SOCIAL, OR SIMILAR PURPOSES.
Not only would this turn most populated areas of New York State into gun-free zones, it would be almost impossible for legal gun owners to comply with the law unless they simply left their licensed firearm at home when they left the house.
The goal of the bill is to ban the lawful carrying of firearms anywhere other people might be present. In fact, the NYSPRA’s executive director told Watson that the way the bill is worded, even carrying a licensed and concealed firearm at a gun club would likely violate the law’s prohibitions against carrying in educational, entertainment, and recreational settings where at least 15 people are present.
The only good news – at least so far – is that King said the bill doesn’t have a Senate sponsor. “But you never know,” he added.
Given the Democratic takeover of the Senate and the party’s leftward lurch – which I agree with on most issues) – he’s right. If the Rifle and Pistol Association prevails before the justices, expect momentum for such a bill to pick up, and we’ll be in the same position we are now with the “proper cause” debate.
In fact, as long as New York has legislators like Simon, I’ll be forced to say again something that – given its current makeup – I never thought I’d say: Thank goodness for the Supreme Court.
When even a longstanding liberal like Watson (who says he’s in favor of things like universal background checks and mandatory training for new gun owners) calls a gun control bill too extreme for his liking, that’s saying something. And yet, both King and Watson are smart not to dismiss the potential threat of this legislation, especially if the Supreme Court does deliver a win to those residents hoping to exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms in self-defense.
I am curious, though, to see how many progressive Assembly members give the thumbs down to Rep. Jo Anne Simon’s legislation, which would turn legal gun owners into “violent felons” simply for carrying their licensed handgun into a restaurant or grocery store. Simon herself claims to be an advocate for criminal justice reform, but trying to throw legal gun owners into prison for exercising their Second Amendment rights is the act of would-be tyrants, not champions for justice, equality, and civil rights. I expect to see broad opposition to Simon’s proposal from the right (including a resurgence of support for Second Amendment Sanctuary communities), but as the liberal columnist for Buffalo News so helpfully proved, there are plenty of reasons why even lefties should reject this measure as well.