The other week the NYS Jewish Gun Club approached a Federal court in Manhattan for a stay on New York’s draconian carry law. The NYS Jewish Gun Club is one of many that have lined up to challenge the unconstitutional provisions in New York’s law, which were signed by unelected Governor Hochul. The case Goldstein v. Hochul challenges what “sensitive places” are under the new law. One of the attorneys representing the NYS Jewish Gun Club, Ameer Benno, previously stated, “By designating all houses of worship as ‘sensitive places’ where exercising the fundamental right to self defense will now be punishable by prison time, the government has not only violated the Second Amendment but also the First Amendment’s guarantee of the free exercise of religion.” Different cases have yielded different results, but according to the NYS Jewish Gun Club, the court they’ve filed in are slow rolling the process.
From the official NYS Jewish Gun Club Twitter account, the following tweet:
We are fighting New York’s recent gun law that prevents licensed people from carrying in Shul. Judge is stalling and refusing to give a ruling. In light of the FBI warning & a decision by another judge in the western district of NY, our lawyers just sent this letter. pic.twitter.com/yXVLi1ZsGw
— NYS Jewish Gun Club (@NysJGunClub) November 4, 2022
The four page letter from Ameer Benno outlines how the court is not taking any action in their case. They also go on to explain how similar cases have already seen portions of the law stayed on the similar grounds that the group is arguing.
I write to inform this Court of highly relevant developments, including the issuance of a preliminary injunction from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York and the issuance of a warning from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) about credible threats of violence to Jewish houses of worship.
Plaintiffs commenced this action and moved for a TRO and a preliminary injunction at the end of September 2022 – five weeks ago. Since then, separate plaintiffs in the Western District of New York, in a case called Hardaway v. Nigrelli, 22-CV-771 (JLS), brought an identical challenge to the same statutory provision on October 13, 2022. The Hardaway plaintiffs moved for a TRO and preliminary injunction on October 15, 2022 – nearly two and a half weeks after our application for such relief was brought. The Hardaway Court granted the TRO – based solely upon the Second and Fourteenth Amendments – and set the preliminary injunction hearing for November 3, 2022, two weeks later. The hearing in Hardaway went forward as scheduled, and USDJ Sinatra issued his Decision and Order granting the preliminary injunction the same day. A copy of that decision is attached to this letter as Exhibit 1.
That decision referenced in Hardaway v. Nigrelli, a Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) case, came to the same conclusion that many that can read plain English should be able to come to.
Here, a stay pending appeal is not warranted. As discussed above, Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights are being violated absent a preliminary injunction. The State fails to establish irreparable injury in the absence of a stay. The balance of hardships and public interest weigh in favor of Plaintiffs, also as discussed above. Finally, it is Plaintiffs who have demonstrated that they are likely to succeed on the merits. Legislative enactments may not eviscerate the Bill of Rights. Every day they do is one too many.
Unfortunately those seeking relief in Goldstein v. Hochul did not receive any such relief at their October 29th, 2022 hearing. NYS Jewish Gun Club’s letter to the judge further explored that fact.
By contrast, this Court denied plaintiffs’ application for a TRO and put off the preliminary injunction hearing for one month. As the date for the hearing approached, this Court told us that it would not allow any testimony to be taken at the hearing, and that the hearing, in essence, would be an oral argument. Despite this representation, and despite the one-month lead time, this Court issued a list of factual questions for plaintiffs to answer at approximately 9:30 p.m. the night before the hearing – just 12 hours before the hearing was scheduled to begin.
Notwithstanding that extremely compressed timetable, counsel spoke with plaintiffs and obtained their responses. Plaintiffs’ counsel provided those responses to this Court at the hearing and also informed this Court that plaintiffs were available to testify by phone to answer any questions. This Court refused to take their testimony (Transcript of October 28, 2022 Hearing (“Hearing Transcript”), annexed hereto as Exhibit 2, at 20), and it similarly would not hear from an Orthodox rabbi who was brought to the court to respond to Your Honor’s queries about Jewish religious observance (Hearing Transcript at 7, 13, 56-58).
At the conclusion of the hearing, plaintiffs’ counsel renewed their application for a TRO, stressing the urgency of the situation and the ongoing constitutional harm to plaintiffs. This Court denied that application and instead directed plaintiffs to submit sworn written responses to its questions. It also entertained the possibility of giving defendants a chance to submit a written response to them, thus further delaying the resolution of plaintiffs’ application.
The absence of a decision in this matter means that plaintiffs can neither exercise their fundamental right to self-defense in “places of worship or religious observation” nor seek review and redress from the Second Circuit to allow them to do so. This has real-world consequences.
Hours ago, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) released a bulletin that it had received “credible information of a broad threat to synagogues” in New Jersey:
From the FBI Newark Twitter account, the following tweet:
The FBI has received credible information of a broad threat to synagogues in NJ. We ask at this time that you take all security precautions to protect your community and facility. We will share more information as soon as we can. Stay alert. In case of emergency call police. pic.twitter.com/e64XSmQvNc
— FBI Newark (@FBINewark) November 3, 2022
On behalf of the SAF, Executive Director Adam Kraut spoke of the Hardaway case, and by extension NYS Jewish Gun Club’s Goldstein, “These credible threats against synagogues demonstrate the need for individuals to be able to exercise their right to bear arms outside of the home.” The universal thread between the challenges is observed by Kraut, and he further stated, “As SAF’s briefing in Hardaway demonstrated, carrying firearms in places of worship is consistent with the text of the Second Amendment, as informed by this nation’s history and tradition – the test to be applied to Second Amendment challenges as reaffirmed by Bruen. Moreover, the Supreme Court has ruled consistently that the police have no general duty to protect the public.”
The letter concluded by bringing up the credible threats, as well as the other jurisdiction had expeditiously tended to the issue, rather than being derelict.
While the FBI has asked that the threatened areas “take all security precautions” to protect their communities and facilities, and while the Ramapo Police Department has asked “that Houses of Worship increase their security posture,” New York State’s categorical prohibitions on firearm possession in places of worship or religious observation make doing so impossible.
Shakespeare stated that “delays have dangerous ends.” The longer this drags on, the more lives are being placed in grave jeopardy. The Western District understood this and acted expeditiously. We urge this Court to do the same.
When I talked to Tzvi Waldman, the founder of NYS Jewish Gun Club the other month, he was outraged by the change in the law. I think that upon filing, he, like many, were hopeful that there would be some speedy relief. One of the things he made mention of was the possibility of grants for security in individual Shuls. New York took the position that throwing money at a problem would help make it go away.
[The government grants are] very nice, but there’s no need for me to outsource my to my security to the government. Rather, ‘No thanks. I’m gonna take care of myself. There’s no need.’ I mean…but to be honest, show me a government program that the government implemented properly. That actually works. For me to say ‘What? I should render my security to the hands of the government?’ I’m sorry, no, I’ll just do it myself.’
It’s hard to speak out and to be the voice when it comes to these things, especially in a community where guns still have a very negative connotation to them due to the Holocaust, and understandably so. But at the end of the day, the way I see it is, we are past that…that generation already. And us having a healthy moral Second Amendment culture is going to prevent that from happening again.”
Hopefully the NYS Jewish Gun Club, Waldman, Goldstein, et.al. will get the relief they seek, and soon. The public masters in New York, whether judicial or executive, local or federal, they all know that what the legislature did was unconstitutional, and unelected Governor Hochul’s law is doomed to failure. Why this one court is slow rolling a stay or temporary restraining order is baffling. Will this letter be effective? Hard to say. But at a minimum, this story did need to be told.