Ban on guns in NY churches declared unconstitutional...again

Ban on guns in NY churches declared unconstitutional...again
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

After the Bruen decision completely upset the state of New York’s gun control apple cart, officials their started trying to find every way they could restrict guns and at least pretend they were taking the decision seriously. Well, it doesn’t really look like that, but I can see how they might delude themselves into thinking otherwise.

One of those was a ban on guns in churches.

Now, this isn’t unusual, but it’s still a problem. If anything, the decision should be left up to the individual churches, but this is the state of New York. They think they know best.

And, perhaps more importantly, they think they know what’s constitutional.

Well, a court has ruled that their ban on guns in churches ain’t.

A federal has once more found the state’s ban on carrying a gun in church, even by those with permits, violates New Yorkers’ rights.

Judge John Sinatra of the Western District of New York, a Trump appointee, again found the state’s ban unconstitutional on Thursday. The judge sided with the pastor of a church in his challenge against the state’s Concealed Carry Improvement Act (CCIA) in Spencer v. Nigrelli. He ruled the ban violated worshipers’ gun rights and infringed on the free exercise of their religious beliefs.

“Ample Supreme Court precedent addressing the individual’s freedoms under the First and Second Amendments to the Constitution dictate that New York’s new place of worship exclusion is unconstitutional,” Sinatra wrote in his preliminary injunction of the law. “[T]he State fails the Second Amendment test set forth in Bruen. And it fares no better with respect to Plaintiffs’ claims under the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment.”

The ruling comes only a few months after Sinatra first ruled against the provision in Hardaway v. Nigrelli. It is the third ruling to find the provision unconstitutional after a different judge ruled against it in Antonyuk v. Nigrelli. The string of losses in the lower courts is a bad sign for the law and a good sign for gun-rights advocates looking to eliminate it.

Of course, writer Stephen Gutowski goes on to note that the Second Circuit has shown its willingness to overturn lower court rulings.

On this, though, they shouldn’t.

See, part of the problem here is that this particular bit of law runs afoul of a number of other rights besides the Second Amendment. As noted above, there are First Amendment considerations, at least some of which stem from teh government telling places of worship what they can and cannot permit.

Then there are property rights issues as well. After all, houses of worship are often owned outright by the churches or their governing bodies. That means they’re private property.

New York’s law basically tells these entities that they can’t allow guns on their property while few other property owners don’t have to deal with it.

Sure, I can get why you’d lay down such a rule with something like a bar. Alcohols and guns aren’t a great mix and we all know it, even if we disagree with laws saying no one can carry in a bar.

But churches and synagogues are different. It’s not like people have a history of church brawls. If so, I might want to transfer my membership there. My point, though, is that even that supposedly compelling reason simply doesn’t exist.

So why don’t churches get to decide for themselves if they want to allow guns or not?

Luckily, in this case, the court has ruled that yes, they actually have that right. Further, while the Second Circuit may overturn the stay, it’s unlikely such a law will survive before the Supreme Court and we all know it.