Re-filed lawsuit could spell doom for New York gun laws

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

You might recall that a few weeks ago a federal judge in New York declared that many of the new restrictions imposed on gun owners in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association were unconstitutional, but that the plaintiffs who brought the case didn’t have standing to sue because .

Well, now Gun Owners of America and the individual gun owners who were a party to that lawsuit have filed a new claim (along with some new plaintiffs) that should address those standing concerns.

Among other alarming provisions flouting recent Supreme Court precedent, this law requires concealed carry permit applicants to:

  • Display “good moral character”
  • Disclose their social media accounts for review
  • Have in person interviews with law enforcement
  • Provide four “character references”
  • Undergo 18 hours of combined training, a tremendous increase from the existing 4-hour requirement

Ironically, several New York leaders offered comments claiming this law was fully in line with the Constitution and Supreme Court precedent, despite Judge Glenn Suddaby’s clear indications that this law was patently unconstitutional—statements which the judge offered in his opinion that denied GOA’s request for a preliminary injunction on standing grounds.

The new lawsuit alleges that several of the plaintiffs are willing to violate state law in order to exercise their constitutionally-protected right to keep and bear arms in self-defense, and are seeking a temporary injunction preventing the new laws from being enforced while they’re being challenged in court. According to Syracuse.com, we might not have long to wait before U.S. District Judge Glenn Suddaby issues his decision.

The latest lawsuit adds some additional details about specific individuals challenging the new law, including:

  • An Onondaga County man who intends to keep carrying his licensed handgun while fishing in state parks, a place now off-limits for guns under the law.
  • An Albany County man who intends to continue carrying his licensed handgun to movie theaters, in restaurants that serve alcohol, and other places now banned under the law.
  • An Oswego County pastor who intends to keep carrying his handgun in his church, another banned location under the new law.
  • A Greene County firefighter who intends to continue carrying his gun to emergency calls, likely placing him in locations in which guns are now banned.
  • A Schenectady County man who feels the law unconstitutionally restricts his right to bear arms, but has decided to not take any actions in violation of the law.

… The new law’s implementation Sept. 1 set off a flurry of lawsuits involving aggrieved gun owners from New York City to Buffalo.

It remains unclear which of the challenges will be decided first, leaving the fate of the law in the hands of at least four different federal judges who each have different cases before them.

But Suddaby, a longtime Syracuse-area lawyer and judge, may end up being the one who decides first. After all, he’s already tipped his hand, calling the law “unconstitutional” in his opinion last month.

Suddaby’s prior decision has no influence on what other judges might think. But he certainly could flush that out into a decision, so long as the problems with the earlier lawsuit have been corrected this time around.

One of the reasons why Suddaby declined to issue an injunction the first time around, despite his findings that many of the new provisions were likely unconstitutional, is that the law hadn’t gone into effect at the time of his ruling, which meant that (theoretically, anyway) none of the plaintiffs had actually suffered any harm.

All that has changed now that the law is in force. As the complaint documents, several of the individual plaintiffs are risking felony charges and the possibility of prison time for continuing to carry in many of the state’s newly established “gun-free zones.” Will that be enough to satisfy Suddaby, or is it actually going to take someone getting arrested and prosecuted before the constitutionality of these laws are called into question?

Let’s hope it doesn’t have to come to that. Every day that these laws are remain in place the rights of New Yorkers are being violated, and it shouldn’t take someone formally being charged with a felony before the state’s latest infringements can be halted by the courts.