The U.S. Supreme Court’s gun ruling is spurring public officials in New York and other liberal states to explore new options to restrict permits and clamp down on where people can carry concealed firearms.
Leaders from New York, New Jersey and California said they are exploring new legislation and regulations to combat the court’s action, which has the potential to offer Americans easier access to guns. The mayor of New York City, Eric Adams, said he will use “every legal resource available” to “undo and mitigate” the damage from the Thursday decision, which overturned a New York state law that limited who could carry a handgun in public.
“We’re not powerless in this situation,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said, adding that she will push for legislation to limit the impact of what she called a “frightening” decision by the court. “We are not going to cede our rights that easily,” she said.
“States still have the right to limit concealed carry permits to those who may safely possess firearms,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in an emailed statement. “The data is clear and the consequences are dire — more guns in more places make us less safe. In California, we are committed to passing and defending commonsense, constitutional gun laws that save lives.”
For states seeking more limits, lawmakers have several possible ways to blunt the effect of the court’s decision, such as high fees and burdensome training requirements to obtain handgun permits, said Robert Leider, an assistant law professor at George Mason University.
Local officials are likely to designate a wide range of venues as “sensitive places” where handguns are banned — including public transportation, schools, parks, stadiums, government offices and establishments serving alcohol, Leider said.
Laws already exist that ban guns in buildings such as legislative assemblies, polling places and courthouses. The Supreme Court said some prohibitions on carrying arms in “sensitive places” are constitutional. Although it declined to define that term, it dismissed characterizing New York’s restriction as a “sensitive-place” law. The island of Manhattan doesn’t qualify as a sensitive place simply because it is crowded, the majority said.
“The court was very vague about what constitutes sensitive places and invited states and localities to define that themselves,” which could help limit gun carrying in urban areas like Manhattan, said Richard Aborn, president of the Citizens Crime Commission in New York City. “People have said to me, what’s the point of carrying a gun if every 50 feet on Madison Avenue is going to be a sensitive place.”
Another possibility is to restrict permit holders from storing unattended handguns in their cars, which would leave them with few options and create a de facto ban across the city, according to Leider. Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, “in day-to-day life, it’s going to be very hard to carry a gun in New York City,” he said. “Upstate New Yorkers could also find themselves with fewer gun-carrying rights.”
However the gun permit debate plays out, it won’t happen overnight. The New York case will be remanded to a lower court and the state given time to bring its laws into compliance with the Supreme Court’s decision.