Court order halts New York's ban on concealed carry in houses of worship

For the first time in nearly two months Pastor Jimmy Hardaway, Bishop Larry A. Boyd, Jr., and other church leaders in New York will be able to carry their concealed firearm at church this weekend without worrying about committing a felony crime. A U.S. District Judge on Thursday granted a temporary restraining order prohibiting law enforcement agencies in the state from enforcing the ban on concealed carry in churches and other places of worship, siding with the pair of pastors from western New York who had recently filed a lawsuit challenging that aspect of the Concealed Carry “Improvement” Act.

In his opinion granting the TRO, U.S. District Judge John A. Sinatra, Jr. declared that “ample Supreme Court precedent addressing the individual’s right to keep and bear arms- from Heller and McDonald to its June 2022 in Bruen– dictates that New York’s new place of worship restriction is equally unconstitutional.” Sinatra went on to state that New York bore the burden of showing that the concealed carry ban is consistent with historical analogues, but failed to do so. Instead, the judge found that the historical record is inconsistent with New York’s ban, “impermissibly infringing” on the right to bear arms in public in self-defense.

“The Constitution requiresthat individuals be permitted to use handguns for the core lawful purpose of self-defense… and it protects that right outside the home and in public. Nothing in the Nation’s history or traditions presumptively closes the door on that right across every place of worship or religious observation. As in Bruen, where the Court stated that, ‘[n]othing in the Second Amendment’s text draws a home/public distinction with respect to the right to keep and bear arms,’ nothing there casts outside of its protection places of worship or religious observation. New York’s exclusion violates ‘the general right to publicly carry arms for self-defense.’ It, too, is one of the policy choices taken ‘off the table’ by the Second Amendment.”

According to Sinatra’s order, the TRO will remain in effect at least until a hearing for a preliminary injunction is held on November 3rd. The Second Amendment Foundation and the Firearms Policy Coalition, who were both involved in the case on the side of the pastors, were quick to cheer the judge’s decision, with FPC’s Director of Legal Operations Bill Sack declaring that “the Court recognized what we have long argued: That no one should be forced to forgo one constitutional right in order to exercise another.”

SAF founder and executive vice president Alan Gottlieb also weighed in on the ruling, saying he was “delighted” by Sinatra’s order.

“As we noted in our petition for the TRO,” Gottlieb observed, “Reverend Hardaway has almost always carried a firearm for self-defense on Sundays and at services on the premises of the churches he has pastored. New York has now stripped Reverend Hardaway, Bishop Boyd, and other New Yorkers of their ability to defend themselves should the need arise at their places of worship. The restrictive new statute prevented both men from doing so.”

New York’s houses of worship will be safer this weekend now that pastors and faith leaders once again have the ability to decide for themselves if they want to allow concealed carry in their sanctuaries, and this is just the first domino to fall when it comes to New York’s unconstitutional infringements on the right to keep and bear arms. There will be many more to come in the months ahead; the state’s ban on concealed carry in almost every public and private setting is simply incompatible with the plain text of the Second Amendment and the historical tradition surrounding the right to bear arms for self-defense, and no amount of legal finesse on the part of New York Attorney General Letitia James can change that fact.