NYC leaders promise new gun limits after Supreme Court ruling

NEW YORK – Democratic leaders in New York aim to keep as many restrictions as possible on carrying a handgun in public after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down key parts of the gun licensing law on Thursday state fire.

State and New York City officials are focused on specifying “sensitive locations” where concealed weapons could be banned, including a concept that would essentially expand those areas to the entire metropolis. Other options being considered include adding new conditions for obtaining a handgun license, such as requiring weapons training.

Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, has promised to recall the Democratic-led Legislature for a special session to pass new rules.

“We have a lot of ideas,” said Hochul, who said he discussed policy options with the mayors of the state’s six largest cities on Thursday.

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New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, also a Democrat, said state lawmakers should ban people from carrying handguns in any place containing more than 10,000 people per square mile (259 hectares). , or anywhere within 1,000 feet of public transportation systems, hospitals, parks, government buildings, schools, churches, cemeteries, banks, theaters, bars, libraries, homeless shelters, and courts. This would effectively include the whole city.

While it’s not yet clear what might come out of the talks, what was clear is the sense of urgency New York’s Democratic leaders feel about keeping some gun restrictions in place. public places. Officials say such restrictions save lives: Statistics show the state and its largest city consistently have one of the lowest gun death rates in the nation.

“We are ready to set an example that will lead the country to: how to respond to this decision?” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat and former police officer and gun owner.

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“We can’t allow New York to become the Wild West,” he said.

New York, like many other US cities, has faced growing concern over violent crime, although NYPD statistics show shootings are down about 12% and murders down 13% to this year, compared to the same period last year. But the killings remain at their second highest level since 2012.

The High Court ruling comes shortly after New York state tightened regulations on semi-automatic rifles following a May 14 shooting in Buffalo, where a white gunman with such a gun killed 10 black people in racist attack. Officials said the gun was purchased legally, but New York does not allow used ammunition magazines to be sold.

As state leaders reacted to Thursday’s decision, Republican Speaker Nick Langworthy said it was “disgusting but highly predictable” that Hochul and other Democrats would “attempt to incite fear and division over the right of a legal gun owner to protect himself and his family”.

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Rep. Lee Zeldin, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, tweeted that Hochul “best not take his next step in this new attack on law-abiding NYers.”

New York state law dates back to 1913. It requires people to demonstrate a “good cause” – a real need to carry the weapon – to obtain a license to carry a handgun outside the home. them.

There are similar standards in a handful of other states, including California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Hawaii.

New York law did not define what good cause meant and gave local authorities – often the police – discretion to issue a license. In practice, this meant that most applicants had to demonstrate a need that went beyond common public safety concerns, such as working in a profession that put them at particular risk.

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In New York, few people outside of retired police officers and armed guards could obtain such a license.

In Thursday’s ruling, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, a Supreme Court majority said the New York rules preclude “law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to hold and bear arms in public”.

In a concurring opinion, Judge Brett Kavanaugh noted that the ruling does not prevent states from imposing handgun licensing requirements, such as fingerprinting, health record checks mental health, firearms training, or a ban on carrying guns in sensitive places, such as schools and government buildings. .

But the majority opinion suggested there were limits to the scope of location-based restrictions: “There is no historical basis for New York to actually declare Manhattan Island a ‘sensitive place’ just because it’s overcrowded” and surveilled, Thomas wrote.

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Bill Araiza, a professor at Brooklyn Law School, said the court ‘seemed to suggest that it was certainly okay for governments to restrict carrying guns in sensitive places’ but ‘poured cold water’ on the idea of ​​large weapon-free zones.

New York City officials insisted that nothing would change immediately, noting that the High Court had sent the case back to a lower court for further proceedings that could iron out the details of the implementation. work.

But the decision immediately sparked fears among proponents of handgun limits in New York, saying easing the rules could create a market for handguns that now barely exists in the state.

New York has one of the lowest firearm death rates in the country, including suicide: 3.9 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2019 and 5.3 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2020.

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Manhattan, a symbol of urban America, had the lowest gun death rate in the state with 1.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2019, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions.

Jeffrey Fagan, a Columbia Law School professor and expert on gun laws, said research indicates that the rate of firearm homicides rises immediately in places where restrictions are lifted.

Adams raised the specter of daily arguments turning into shootings on the crowded streets and subways of New York. He suggested that police officers would face greater danger, as well as a greater burden, in distinguishing between legal and illegal firearms in public places.

Certain groups of companies are also concerned. Andrew Rigie of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, a group of restaurant and nightclub owners, said small businesses should be able to decide what is allowed in their establishments.

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Associated Press writers Michelle L. Price, Michael Hill and Jennifer Peltz contributed to this report.

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