Two very big problems with New York's new concealed carry restrictions

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

Someone could (and will) write a lengthy legal treatise on all of the issues with the anti-gun legislation that’s being rushed to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s desk today (as of the time this story was posted it doesn’t appear the bill has been signed yet, but it’s only a matter of hours at this point), but for the sake of brevity I’ll keep my complaints limited (at least in this post) to what I see are two of the biggest problems with the new gun control measures: the inordinate number of “sensitive places” and the legal penalty for carrying a gun into a place where they’re banned.

Let’s start with the locations where the lawful carrying of firearms will be banned outright under the new law.

If the bill is approved, guns would be banned from modes of public transportation, such as subways and buses, and from schools, shelters, government buildings, poll sites, places of worship, health facilities, establishments that serve alcohol, libraries, day cares, zoos, museums, theaters and stadiums, public playgrounds and parks.

Other sensitive locations where firearms would be prohibited include Times Square, a popular tourist destination in Manhattan.

There will also be a “presumption” statewide that firearms are not welcome inside private businesses unless the property owner explicitly states otherwise with a clearly visible sign.

In other words, even if the owner of a restaurant that serves alcohol wants to allow concealed carry, they’re prohibited from doing so under the new rules, though businesses not included in the laundry list of prohibited places can “opt-in” and allow carry if they choose. Buffalo, New York attorney Paul Cambria doesn’t think that’s going to sit well with the courts.

“The argument is going to be that the presumption of no carry is inconsistent with the Supreme Court decision,” said Cambria. “The second amendment, according to the Supreme Court, basically presumes that people can bear arms and that includes people and that includes places other than your home. And a presumption as suggested by the state would be inconsistent with that. I’m sure that is the challenge that is going to be made.”

Also, Cambria said the so-called sensitive zones, where you can’t have a gun, will also be challenged as inconsistent with the decision. Lawmakers are finalizing a bill that would ban guns around schools, government buildings, mass transit, parks, and houses of worship. It would ban guns in bars and restaurants – unless a sign is posted indicating that guns are welcome.

The Supreme Court said in the Bruen decision that the Second Amendment protects a “general right to carry” a firearm for self-defense in public, and New York’s decision to, in essence, impose a blanket ban on carrying with a few narrow carveouts flies in the face of Justice Clarence Thomas’ opinion, which spoke of prohibiting the right to carry only in “extraordinary” places.

So too does the proposed punishment for bringing a firearm into one of the many “gun-free zones” established by the new law: a felony punishable by several years in prison and the lifetime loss of your Second Amendment rights. That’s completely inconsistent with the tradition and history of the Second Amendment, and appears to be designed only to have a chilling effect on the lawful exercise of our right to bear arms.

It also goes squarely against the typical Democrat rhetoric about the need for criminal justice reform and de-incarceration, given that hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers could end up charged with felony offenses if they accidentally enter a place where Hochul and Democrats have deemed off-limits to your right to carry. Kathy Hochul seems to be all about decriminalization when it comes to drug paraphernalia and, at least in one case, drugs itself:

She’s even open to “considering” decriminalizing sex workers, but she’s eager to put the very people who’ve navigated the maze of red tape and jumped through all of her hoops in order to get a carry license into prison if they so much as accidentally set foot in a public park while they’re carrying a firearm for self-defense. I can actually see the merits in decriminalizing all of the above, but there is no cause or justification for charging someone with a felony for carrying in a “gun-free zone” unless you’re either trying to A) increase the prison population or B) make people too scared to exercise their right to carry for fear they might mistakenly run afoul of these draconian policies and wind up in prison as a result.

While Democratic lawmakers are trying to ensure that a mom who inadvertently brings a pistol tucked in her purse into a grocery store gets a few years behind bars to teach her a lesson, New Yorkers are are worried about the sharp increase in violent crime around the state, which in many cases involves repeat offenders who’ve benefitted from the state’s soft-on-crime policies. If I were Lee Zeldin, the state’s Republican candidate for governor, I’d be hammering this point home in every speech and campaign stop I make. These new gun control laws are designed to make the average law-abiding New Yorker say “it’s not worth going through all that just to carry a gun in self-defense”, and even the persistent few who run the gauntlet of requirements to be approved for a license are told that one mistake could lead to a lifelong prohibition on gun ownership, the loss of a job, and confinement behind bars for several years. Meanwhile, repeat violent offenders are literally getting away with murder (and robbery, and carjacking, and…). There are a lot of New Yorkers who instinctively will be in favor of these laws, but Republicans need to remind them of who, exactly, Democrats are treating as the more dangerous members of society.

Gun control advocates are expressing confidence that that bills will uphold court scrutiny, but honestly, what else are they going to say? That they know many of these restrictions are going to be struck down, but they’re on board anyway because they hate the thought of average citizens exercising their right to armed self-defense? I’d applaud their honesty if they actually admitted that, but it’s not gonna happen.

Again, the two problems I outlined above are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the problematic nature of the new carry restrictions. The perusing of every applicant’s social media is worthy of an entirely separate post, so look for that tomorrow.

Taken in full, Hochul’s proposal is nothing more than a wholesale attempt to curtail the exercise of a constitutionally protected right by making it unaffordable, inconvenient, and illegal in most places accessible to the public. It’s also, sadly, what most of us expected New York to do when confronted with the fact that they’re unconstitutionally denying residents access to a fundamental right, and I know there will be plenty of attorneys reading the text of this new law over the Independence Day weekend in preparation for filing suit before the measure goes into effect on September 1st.