NEW YORK (AP) — For decades New York leaders boasted that strict restrictions on small arms possession made it one of America’s safest places, a claim supported by statistics showing that the state — and its largest city – consistently ranks among the country’s lowest gun death rates.
Now, in the wake of a Supreme Court decision scrapping key parts of the state’s gun licensing law, lawmakers will try to maintain as many restrictions as possible on who can carry a gun and where they can bring it.
Democrat Governor Kathy Hochul vowed Thursday to recall the Democrat-led legislature before a special session to pass new rules, including a law specifying “sensitive locations” where people cannot carry concealed weapons, such as school zones, bars or hospitals.
Other options include adding new conditions to get a weapons license, such as requiring weapons training.
“Our new laws are going to look at restrictions on sensitive sites, changing the permitting process,” Hochul said after the court’s ruling. “We’re going to have training requirements. We’re going to make sure people who have weapons have specified training. We have a lot of ideas.”
New York City Council president Adrienne Adams planned to hold a vote asking state legislators to ban people from carrying guns in any place with more than 10,000 people per square mile, or anywhere within 300 yards of public transportation systems, hospitals, parks, government offices, schools, churches, cemeteries, banks, theaters, bars, libraries, homeless shelters and courts – in fact the entire metropolis.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a former police officer and gun owner, said banning guns in densely populated areas will save lives.
“We will work together to mitigate the risks this decision poses once it is implemented because we cannot allow New York to become the Wild West,” Adams said.
The New York State law, in effect since 1913, said that in order to carry a gun outdoors, a person applying for a permit must demonstrate “the right reason,” an actual need to fire the gun. to carry.
A similar standard is in effect only in a handful of other states, including California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland and Hawaii.
The law didn’t define what valid reason meant, and it gave local officials — often a police department — the freedom to decide whether or not to issue a permit. In practice, this meant that most applicants had to demonstrate a need beyond routine public safety concerns, such as pursuing a profession that puts them at particular risk.
In New York City, besides retired law enforcement officers and armed guards, few people could be licensed to carry a gun.
The legal challenge was brought by two New York men who were not licensed to carry pistols outdoors after failing to prove to authorities that they had a compelling reason to do so.
In Thursday’s ruling, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, a majority of Supreme Court justices said New York’s rules prevented “law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to keep and bear weapons in public.”
In a concurring opinion, Judge Brett Kavanaugh noted that the court’s decision does not prevent states from imposing licensing requirements for carrying a gun, such as requiring someone to fingerprint, undergo a mental health record check, or undergo firearms training, or barring people from carrying weapons in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings.
The decision, he said, would put New York on relatively the same ground as 43 other states: If an ordinary person applies for a license to carry a gun, and meets eligibility standards, they cannot be turned down at the discretion of the government. the licensing authority, or because they cannot demonstrate a compelling need to defend themselves.
New York City officials insisted nothing would change immediately, noting that the Supreme Court was returning the case to a lower court for further proceedings that could smooth out execution details.
But the decision immediately sparked fear among supporters of the small arms limits in New York, saying that relaxing the rules could create a market for handguns that now barely exists in the state.
More gun shops could open. Sales could increase. And that could inevitably lead to more guns ending up in the hands of banned buyers like teens or thugs.
In many states, it’s easy for banned buyers to get a gun simply by having a friend walk into a gun store and buy them one. You can’t do that in New York. As a result, most guns used in crime were bought in or stolen from another state with looser rules.
Gun control proponents have argued that this is one of the reasons New York has one of the lowest rates of firearm deaths, including suicides: 3.9 deaths per 100,000 people in 2019 and 5.3 deaths per 100,000 people in 2020 .
Manhattan, a symbol of urban America, had the lowest firearms death rate in the state, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, at 1.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2019.
Adams, a Democrat, raised the specter of mundane disputes that culminated in shootings in New York’s bustling streets and subways. He suggested that police officers would be at greater risk, as well as a greater burden of distinguishing between legal and illegal weapons in public places.
“This complicates matters,” Adams said. “But we will continue to prosecute those who carry illegal firearms.”
Jeffrey Fagan, a Columbia Law School professor who is an expert on gun laws, said research indicates that firearms homicides are immediately rising in places where restrictions are lifted.
Making gun-free zone lists would have the support of a number of business groups.
Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, said he suspects the vast majority of restaurants, bars and nightclubs don’t want customers to carry guns.
“We would certainly like to have a policy that allows small businesses to control what is and is not allowed in their facilities,” he said.
But no-place lists may not be a deterrent to the people most likely to kill with those weapons.
The court’s ruling comes not long after New York tightened gun rules following a May 14 mass shooting in Buffalo in which a white gunman killed 10 black people in a racially motivated attack.
The state first required a license to buy a semi-automatic rifle and banned anyone under the age of 21 from signing up. People under that age can still own shotguns and other types of rifles. New York had already required a person to be 21 years old to own a gun.
The court’s ruling did not address age limits.
Associated Press writers Michelle L. Price and Jennifer Peltz contributed to this report.