New York City

Judge moves to pause New York firearm license law including Times Square ‘Gun Free Zone’

A ruling says state officials went too far in their response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision nixing New York’s tough permit restrictions.

October 7, 2022 Greg B. Smith, THE CITY
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A federal judge on Thursday put the brakes on much of the concealed carry law Albany had quickly fashioned in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June that found New York’s permit system violated the Second Amendment.

U.S. District Court Judge Glenn Suddaby of upstate’s Northern District ordered the state to temporarily halt enforcement of many key aspects of the law, including the declaration that Times Square is now a “gun free zone.”

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The judge gave the State of New York three days to file an appeal before the stay goes into effect, and hours after the ruling landed Attorney General Letitia James vowed to contest his decision.

New York officials reacted with outrage, with Gov. Kathy Hochul calling the judge’s ruling “deeply disappointing,” while Mayor Eric Adams stated, “Once again, the courts have opened up another river leading to the sea of gun violence, making it harder for us to protect New Yorkers.”

The Supreme Court ruled that New York state’s strict protocols for carry permits, which required applicants to prove they had a specific need to carry a firearm in public, violated both the Second Amendment constitutional right to bear arms and the 14th Amendment requirement that all citizens be treated equally.

Eight days later Albany responded by passing a concealed carry law that amped up other requirements for obtaining a carry permit and greatly restricted where an individual with a permit could bring a gun.

This triggered multiple lawsuits, including one, Antonyuk v. Hochul, filed by six upstate gun owners who said they planned to violate the law to test its constitutionality.

On Thursday, Judge Suddaby ordered that several aspects of the law be put on hold while the case moves forward through the courts. The judge took particular aim at what Albany deemed to be “sensitive locations” where firearms would be prohibited.

Those include Times Square, where on Sept. 1, the day the concealed carry law went into effect, the city put up signs around the perimeter of the frenetic, tourist-clogged area declaring that the area was now designated “gun free.”

Judge Suddaby also temporarily halted enforcement of gun-free zones in many other “sensitive locations,” including bars, theaters, sports arenas, public transportation such as the subway, hospitals, mental health and childcare facilities, homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters and public parks.

A sign reading “Gun Free Zone” is posted near around Times Square, Aug. 31, 2022.
Photo; Yuki Iwamura/AP

‘Repeated and baseless attacks’

The judge, a former federal prosecutor who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush in 2008, did allow enforcement to continue at governmental buildings, polling places and places of religious worship, although he mandated an exception for individuals providing security at churches, mosques and synagogues.

He also put a stay on the broadest aspect of the new state law, which by default declared all private properties such as apartment and office buildings in the five boroughs to be “gun free” unless the owner explicitly desired to “opt out” of that restriction.

“The state of New York is now making decisions for private property owners that they are perfectly able to make for themselves,” Suddaby wrote.

The judge also targeted several new requirements for permit applicants, including putting on hold the requirement that applicants provide license officers with all their social media accounts for the prior three years.

“The court finds that no such circumstances exist under which this provision would be valid,” the judge wrote, also ordering a halt to a required in-person interview with a licensing officer, as well as a requirement that applicants turn over the names of all family members and cohabitants.

He let stand the obligation for applicants to complete 18 hours of firearms training along with the demand that applicants provide four personal references.

Suddaby’s temporary restraining order will remain in effect while the case proceeds, and it’s not clear how long the concealed carry law will remain in this legal limbo. Both sides are set to argue the case later this month, but it will likely be appealed and could very well wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court once again.

It’s also possible the judge’s order won’t survive past next week. New York’s attorney general said Thursday she will file an appeal of Suddaby’s ruling with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan.

“Common-sense gun control regulations help save lives,” James stated. “I will not back down from the fight to protect New Yorkers from repeated and baseless attacks on our state’s gun safety measures. I will continue to defend our responsible gun laws and fight.”

THE CITY is an independent, nonprofit news outlet dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York.

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