Gun Owners of America sues over New York's latest gun laws

AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane

New York’s new requirements and restrictions for those hoping to acquire a concealed handgun license are going to face multiple legal challenges, and Gun Owners of America is doing its part by filing a lawsuit in federal court seeking to overturn and undo the new infringements slapped on the books as a response to the Supreme Court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Assocation v. Bruen, which struck down the state’s “may issue” system requiring applicants to demonstrate a justifiable need to carry a gun in self-defense.

The new litigation, filed by New York resident Ivan Antonyuk along with GOA, its state affiliate, and its foundation wing, accuses lawmakers of ignoring the Court’s decision in Bruen, choosing instead to double down, “flouting the people’s right to keep and bear arms, and in fact creating a far more onerous and restrictive concealed carry scheme even than that which existed prior to the Bruen decision (if such thing is possible).”

The Governor herself issued several statements critical and disrespectful of the Supreme Court’s ruling: “[t]he Supreme Court’s reckless and reprehensible decision to strike down New York’s century-old concealed carry law puts lives at risk here in New York,”6 and “[a] week ago, the Supreme Court issued a reckless decision removing century-old limitations on who is allowed to carry concealed weapons in our state — senselessly sending us backward and putting the safety of our residents in jeopardy[.]”7 In other words, the Governor appears to have no desire to comply with the Supreme Court’s Bruen decision, and every intention to thwart and undermine it through signing the CCIA into law, as a sort of guerrilla warfare against the Supreme Court, the rule of law, and the Second Amendment.

This new bill, rushed through the extraordinary session and passed without the required public posting, comment and debate, has now introduced a slew of new, unprecedented, and blatantly unconstitutional impediments to New Yorkers in their attempt to exercise their constitutional right to armed self-defense outside the home.

The bill, ironically called the Concealed Carry Improvement Act, is instead New York’s attempt to flout the Supreme Court’s holding in Bruen. Instead of complying with that decision, the Assembly and Senate, with the Governor’s glowing approval, have promulgated several blatantly unconstitutional new infringements of the enumerated right to keep and bear arms.

Among the objections listed in the lawsuit are New York’s “good moral character” standard, which, as attorney Stephen Stamboulieh points out, is just as subjective and arbitrary as the “justifiable need” provision that was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

The suit also takes issue with other demands of applicants that “represent gross infringements of applicants’ First Amendment rights” in addition to infringing on their right to keep and bear arms.

For example, demanding the names and contact information (presumably for interrogation by licensing authorities) of relatives and co-habitants violates the First Amendment right of association, along with anonymity rights of those who do not want to be contacted by government officials, or have their information entered into a government database.

Demanding a list of and potentially access to some vague class of “social media accounts of the applicant” in order to issue a permit to carry a concealed weapon requires disclosure of protected First Amendment speech and press as a condition of exercising another protected constitutional right.

Next, applicants must provide four character references to the government as a condition of exercising Second Amendment rights. Unsurprisingly, other constitutional rights are not predicated upon what others think about you, or conditioned on having friends who will agree to stand up to government interrogation and scrutiny (or retaliation) in order to help another person obtain a carry license. Notwithstanding that, those who do not have four “character references” presumably will be unable to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

Making matters worse, the CCIA demands that “character references” attest that the applicant “has not engaged in any acts, or made any statements that suggest they are likely to engage in conduct that would result in harm to themselves or others.” Of course, how someone would be in the omniscient position to attest that another person has not engaged in “any act” or made “any statements” of a certain nature seems a tall order indeed.

Next, the requirement that nothing “suggest [an applicant is] likely to engage in conduct that would result in harm [justified or not] to themselves or others” is an open-ended and vague standard, as one hundred percent of those applying for a permit to carry a handgun in public, by definition, could be said to be “likely” to “harm” a carjacker through the morally legitimate and entirely lawful act of self-defense.

The lawsuit also challenges the sweeping number of “sensitive places” deemed off limits to lawful concealed carry and the burdensome training requirements (which the suit calls a “Second Amendment Tax” because of the cost of the 16-hours of classroom training and two hours of live-fire instruction).

The entire filing is worth a read when you have a few minutes, and I have to say I’m actually kind of looking forward to seeing what nonsense the state of New York comes up with in its response. So many of these new provisions clearly go far beyond what the Supreme Court said in Bruen that I don’t see how they could possibly be upheld, but I’m curious to see how the state tries to justify continuing to treat a fundamental right as if it’s a privilege to be doled out in meager portions only to those deemed special enough to protect themselves in public with a firearm.