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Attorney General James defends New York State’s gun licensing protection law at Supreme Court

November 3, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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New York State Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday released a statement supporting New York State’s gun laws in anticipation of oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in the case New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, in which the plaintiffs seek to overturn a New York law governing the carrying of firearms outside the home.

In part, she said, “New York has some of the strongest gun laws in the nation, but guns do not stop working as they cross the threshold of another state’s border, which is why our gun licensing laws are necessary. This year alone, the United States has already seen over 600 mass shootings and more than 37,000 individuals have died as a result of gun violence. We are now in the Supreme Court, defending our right to prevent New York from becoming the next community devastated by gun violence.” 

In March 2019, the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association (NYSRPA) and two individuals sued New York State in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, claiming that New York’s Sullivan Law of 1913 infringed upon their Second Amendment rights. The law only allows individuals to carry concealed handguns in public upon meeting certain eligibility criteria and a showing of “proper cause.” 

These firearms were turned in to law enforcement earlier this year at a gun-buyback event in Brooklyn hosted by Attorney General Letitia James, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and the NYPD.
Eagle file photo

After the suit was filed, the Attorney General’s Office successfully moved to dismiss the lawsuit, which was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The NYSRPA and the two individuals then petitioned the Supreme Court to review the case. Attorney General James filed her brief in the case in September.

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In Wednesday’s arguments, Solicitor General Barbara D. Underwood argued the long history — going back hundreds of years — of governments being allowed to regulate firearms in their jurisdictions in an effort to protect public safety. Plaintiffs seek to have the unrestricted ability to carry a firearm anywhere in public, but the Second Amendment does have limitations, mainly in line with giving states the authority to pass laws that regulate the carrying of firearms in public spaces.

A wide range of groups submitted amicus briefs, including state and local governments; elected officials; the American Bar Association; the American Civil Liberties Union; the American Medical Association; Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund; the League of Women Voters; the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund; the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence; the National League of Cities; the National Urban League; the New York Civil Liberties Union; the New York County Lawyers Association; the Partnership for New York City and more.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., meets with reporters following a Democratic policy meeting at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

“In the midst of an epidemic of deadly gun violence, this is a critical case that should affirm the ability of states and localities to protect public safety and prevent crime via sensible gun safety laws,” said U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. “New York’s law has worked well for over 100 years and the data, common sense, case law, and the Constitution argue for upholding it. In places like New York, allowing a right to concealed- carry weapons in our subways, crowded streets, airports, and more is a formula for more violence, death, and mayhem that would put the public and our police officers at unacceptable risk.”

“The gun violence epidemic in America claims more than 100 lives a day and threatens our democratic freedom,” said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “There is compelling evidence that people are safer when responsible gun ownership provisions are enshrined into law, and thanks to the efforts of the state legislature, New York has some of the strongest gun safety laws in the country. I’m proud to have joined more than 150 of my colleagues in an amicus brief supporting Attorney General James as her office defends New York’s law that restricts concealed handguns in public in the Supreme Court.”

“Physicians have a unique perspective on the compelling need to uphold New York state’s concealed-carry law,” said Gerald E. Harmon, president, American Medical Association. “Day after day, physicians witness the pain, trauma, and suffering from gun violence, and care for the victims by treating their wounds, paralysis, colostomies, brain injuries, depression, chronic infections, and post-traumatic stress.”

“The Supreme Court has held that an individual’s right to bear arms for self-defense is subject to regulations that protect ‘sensitive places,’ said Reverend Ian T. Douglas, bishop, Episcopal Church in Connecticut, and co-convener, Bishops United Against Gun Violence Network. “Houses of worship are just such places, and the state has a right and a duty to establish regulations that protect them.”

“The LGBTQ+ community — particularly transgender and LGBTQ+ people of color — is disproportionately impacted and harmed by gun violence,” said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, senior attorney, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. “Sweeping away sensible gun safety regulations would further endanger the lives of LGBTQ+ people who are more likely to be targeted for a hate crime than any other group.”

“NYCLA supports the state’s position in upholding New York’s gun laws, which protect all New Yorkers, including lawyers, judges, and those in contact with the legal system,” said Vince Chang, president, New York County Lawyers Association (NYCLA). “Any weakening of the existing protections threatens public safety. Times Square should not become the O.K. Corral.”

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