New York Gun Laws to be reviewed in Supreme Court

By Michael Joseph on February 09, 2019

Our criminal defense lawyers who defend gun charges know that despite the clear language in the Second Amendment, New York continues to have some of the most draconian and restrictive gun laws in the nation.

On January 22, 2019, the Supreme Court said that it would review a New York City gun law that limits residents from transporting their guns outside their homes. It’s a first Second Amendment case in nearly a decade and a test of the court’s approach to gun rights after the arrival of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh in October 2018.

Justice Kavanaugh, who replaced the more moderate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and created a reliable five-member conservative majority, has an expansive view of gun rights. His presence most likely means that the Supreme Court will start exploring and perhaps expanding the scope of the Second Amendment. This could mean that people who merely have a gun on their person in New York can no longer be prosecuted criminally.

The New York City law challenged in the new case allows residents with so-called premises licenses to take their guns to one of seven shooting ranges within the city limits. But the ordinance forbids them to take their guns anywhere else, including second homes and shooting ranges outside the city, even when they are unloaded and locked in a container separate from ammunition.

The Supreme Court’s new majority seems ready to continue a project begun in 2008, when the court, by a 5-to-4 vote, established an individual right to keep guns in the home for self-defense. That decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, was both revolutionary and in its way quite limited. Exactly what the Second Amendment protects has been in dispute ever since. So under to Heller case anyone in New York who was convicted of possession of a gun in their home may have grounds to move to vacate the conviction.

Since the Heller decision, lower courts have overwhelmingly upheld state and local gun control laws. The Supreme Court, in turn, has refused to hear appeals from those decisions. Justice Kavanaugh’s arrival changed that.

Last year, dissenting from the court’s decision not to hear a Second Amendment case, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the court was abdicating its duty to protect an important constitutional right.

Three city residents and the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association sued to challenge the law but lost in Federal District Court in Manhattan and in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. A unanimous three-judge panel of the Second Circuit ruled that the ordinance passed constitutional muster under the Heller decision.

Before 2001, the city offered a license that allowed owners to take their guns to shooting ranges outside the city. Only New York City flatly prohibits its residents from removing their lawfully purchased and duly registered handguns from the city limits, even to transport them (unloaded, and locked up) to second homes at which they are constitutionally entitled to possess them, or to out-of-city shooting ranges or competitions at which they are constitutionally entitled to hone their safe and effective use. Our New York criminal defense lawyers believe this overly restrictive law unduly infringes on the Constitutionality protected right to bear arms.

In urging the Supreme Court to hear their appeal in the case, New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. City of New York, No. 18-280, the challengers brief said the restrictions imposed by the New York City ordinance were unique in the nation and made no sense.  It further stated that prohibition does not even make sense on its own terms and that it has the perverse consequences of forcing New Yorkers to leave their handguns behind in their vacant residences whenever they leave the city for an extended period of time.

However, Adam Winkler the author of “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America” stated that it could be a landmark case with major implications for gun policy and that the case could articulate broad principles about the Second Amendment, and especially the Second Amendment outside the home.

Our White Plains lawyers and New York Lawyers believe that we need the laws that we have that protect against guns being on our streets and we will fight to protect ourselves, that’s the bottom line.

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