The race is on to challenge New York's post-Bruen gun control laws

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

When New York State Rifle & Pistol Association executive director Tom King joined Cam & Co on Wednesday, he told us that attorneys were already poring over the new gun control laws rushed through the Democratic-controlled legislature in the wake of the Supreme Court striking down the state’s “may issue” carry laws, and said that a lawsuit would be coming “sooner rather than later.”

We’re probably going to end up seeing multiple challenges filed by various organizations and individuals, honestly, and it looks like the first suit could be coming early next week, though not necessarily from NYSRPA.

Carl Paladino, a Republican candidate for New York’s 23rd Congressional District, announced on Thursday he’s retained counsel and will personally fund a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s new concealed carry measures on behalf of the people of New York.

Prominent Buffalo-area attorney Paul Cambria will represent him and they hope to file in federal court by Monday morning.

… Meanwhile, New York Republican Party Chairman Nick Langworthy pledged to sue last week as well and Thursday announced the Republican Party will partner with the state Conservative Party, saying, “we have been working the phones and talking to legal experts to build a coalition and bring a winning case that will stop this law in its tracks.”

“I’m sick and tired of Democrats running roughshod over our Constitution and going after upstanding citizens while letting violent thugs wreak havoc on our streets. I’m going to sue them again and we’re going to win again,” Langworthy said.

Langworthy is also running against Paladino in the 23rd District primary and Paladino said he believes it’s a conflict of interest for the chair to use state party resources to sue while advancing his own campaign simultaneously.

Paladino said he would be willing to partner with the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, which said it has been pulling together its own legal resources. NYSRPA President Tom King, in a statement, also said however, he is 100% behind the GOP-Conservative Party effort.

If Paladino files his suit on Monday, I don’t think it will be long at all before the GOP/Conservative launches its own legal fight, especially with Paladino and Langworthy both vying for the nomination in NY-23.

Now that we know legal action is imminent, what about the likelihood of success? Even some fans of gun control think that many of the new laws imposed by New York Democrats are on dubious constitutional grounds based on the Supreme Court’s decision in Bruen.

Among the provisions that could be ripe for litigation are the expanded requirements that the applicant must possess “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 or others.” A more limited “moral character” clause was already a part of the existing law, which will remain in effect until Sept. 1.

“How do they specify or operationalize that if you don’t have clear, objective criteria that might satisfy what the court said?” said Robert Spitzer, distinguished service professor of political science emeritus at SUNY Cortland who has authored five books on gun control. “That is a big question mark.”

In addition, permit applicants must also provide the licensing agency – which is typically a police department – with information about their social media accounts. The Times-Union editorial board suggested on Thursday this provision could be a violation of First Amendment protections. Spitzer, however, noted, there is extensive precedent to using social media as a reference point when assessing applicants for jobs or colleges, but noted the social media requirement is “more vulnerable than some other provisions” of the new law.

Regardless of what exactly was included in the new restrictions, gun rights advocates and Republicans would be likely to challenge them, he said.

“The big step was not that the Supreme Court struck down the just cause provision of the state’s carry law, but that they expanded the definition of Second Amendment rights and changed the criteria for evaluating the constitutionality of gun laws generally, so the effect of it will invite challenges to all kinds of gun laws,” he said. “It’s only a matter of time before the state law, no matter what it says, will be challenged in part and in whole.”

To be fair, these challenges were already happening even before Bruen. What’s changed is that thanks to the Court’s explicit rejection of the two-step, tiered scrutiny test used by many lower courts in favor of a “text, history, and tradition” test, it’s going to be much harder for anti-gun lawmakers and activist judges to justify upholding a lot of the gun control laws that are already in place or being rushed into law in the wake of SCOTUS’s decision… including the New York laws that are set to take effect on September 1st.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see new lawsuits filed in states like California and New Jersey next week as well. It’s a target rich environment for Second Amendment attorneys at the moment, and hopefully it won’t be too long before their legal arguments hit the mark and put a stop to the civil rights abuses we’re seeing in several blue states.