New York’s post-Bruen gun laws could soon receive some Supreme Court scrutiny, with plaintiffs attorneys in two separate lawsuits asking the Court to weigh in and put a halt to enforcement of the state’s ironically named Concealed Carry Improvement Act while the new laws are being challenged in court. The latest request was delivered to justices on Tuesday, when a group of federally licensed firearm dealers in New York appealed a Second Circuit decision denying an injunction to the High Court. Meanwhile, Attorney General Letitia James delivered a brief of her own to SCOTUS urging the same justices who struck down the state’s “may issue” laws to allow New York’s latest infringements on the right to keep and bear arms to be enforced by state and local police.
In her brief on behalf of the New York gun retailers, attorney Paloma Capanna argues that the new laws have only sown chaos and confusion for her clients and their customers, and that they’re suffering harm as a result of law’s effects.
“Petitioners as business owners sell semiautomatic rifles, but they have been unable to do so since September 1, 2022 — statewide — because the new SAR license is not available,” Capanna wrote. “SARs are trapped in inventory. Ammunition sales are down. Sales across the board are down. Again, this is a motion for preliminary injunction; not summary judgment or to reverse a decision after trial.”
A group of gun owners has already asked the court to block portions of the CCIA. The firearms dealers now ask Justice Sonia Sotomayor to block laws targeting firearm and ammunition sellers. They are additionally challenging regulations on concealed-carry permit training, new semiautomatic rifle licenses, and new ammunition background checks.
“Petitioners are risking everything to try to stay in business in support of civil rights under the Second, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments, and to keep the doors open and the lights on while they pursue this case, but we can’t seem to find a judge in district or circuit court who will back them up,” Capanna wrote. “Petitioners are thus before you now.”
Ironically, NY AG Letitia James made a similar argument in her own brief to the Court, alleging that putting a halt to enforcement of the CCIA’s numerous restrictions would create a state of confusion for both law-abiding citizens and law enforcement.
For example, the injunction would have precluded the enforcement of a “good moral character” requirement for firearms licenses, thereby requiring the State to issue licenses to people with a demonstrated propensity to misuse firearms. In addition, the likelihood of public and law enforcement confusion resulting from the preliminary injunction was substantial.
By contrast, applicants will not suffer irreparable injury from the stay pending the court of appeals’ expedited resolution of the appeal. The injuries cited by applicants are either hypothetical or sufficiently narrow that they cannot overcome respondents’ strong showing on the merits and equities. At a minimum, any vacatur of the stay should be limited to applicants, since the statewide relief ordered by the district court is grossly disproportionate to the individual harms alleged.
James’ argument doesn’t really hold up, at least in terms of what the Supreme Court actually had to say in Bruen, where the majority clearly rejected the kind of arbitrary licensing and permitting that New York is trying to get away with using a beefed-up version of its “good moral character” clause as well as the overly broad “sensitive places” designated by the CCIA. And the state itself sowed plenty of confusion with its implementation of the CCIA; including Gov. Kathy Hochul’s declaration the day before the law took effect that all carry applicants who weren’t yet approved would have to re-apply under the new standards, even though the training mandates had not yet been issued and there was no way for applicants to comply.
There’s no doubt that New York’s gun laws are a confusing mess at the moment. The big question is whether the Court will step in to intervene now or wait for the Second Circuit appeals to finish playing out. James’s argument that the Court should take a hands-off approach to allow for “further percolation of the relevant issues in the lower court” is one that SCOTUS should reject, given that we’re dealing with both a fundamental civil right and laws that made it virtually impossible for law-abiding citizens to defend themselves in a number of places where criminal activity is an ongoing concern, including “sensitive places” like the New York City subway system. The Supreme Court’s decision in Bruen was meant to wipe away those infringements that blocked the average citizen from exercising their right to bear arms in self-defense, but the state has merely replaced one unconstitutional regime with another, and the Court should act at the first given opportunity to slap down the CCIA and instruct the state to craft a carry law that actually recognizes and respects the Second Amendment rights of its residents.