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Federal judge rolls back New York's new gun law

Among the locations where the judge said concealed carry restrictions should be lifted are subways, public playgrounds, domestic violence shelters and health care facilities.
A salesperson shows a pistol at SP firearms in Hempstead, N.Y., on June 23.Brittainy Newman / AP file

A federal judge in New York temporarily blocked parts of the state's revised concealed carry gun law Thursday, finding that it is too strict and should not have barred weapons from being carried in areas like public playgrounds and health care facilities.

In a 53-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Glenn Suddaby said the law, which went into effect Sept. 1, was more problematic than the earlier version the Supreme Court struck down this year. Suddaby issued a temporary restraining order blocking a number of the law's restrictions, including its barring of the concealed carrying of firearms in a number of "sensitive locations." Among the locations where Suddaby found restrictions should be lifted are libraries, public playgrounds, zoos, subways, trains, ferries, domestic violence and homeless shelters, summer camps and New York City's Times Square.

"Setting aside the lack of historical analogues supporting these particular provisions, in the court’s view, the common thread tying them together is the fact that they all regard locations where (1) people typically congregate or visit and (2) law-enforcement or other security professionals are — presumably — readily available," Suddaby found.

He ordered the ruling stayed for three days to give the state time to appeal, which state Attorney General Letitia James said her office would do.

"While the decision preserves portions of the law, we believe the entire law must be preserved as enacted. We will appeal this decision," James said, adding that "common-sense gun control regulations help save lives." 

The state passed the law banning firearms in many public places and stiffening permitting requirements in July after the Supreme Court struck down a century-old provision in New York that required gun owners who want to carry handguns outside their homes to prove that they have a unique need for self-protection.

The new law, called the Concealed Carry Improvement Act, required people seeking concealed carry permits to show they are of "good moral character" and to provide character references, contact information of family members and people they live with and information about their social media accounts.

A group of gun owners sued in federal court in Syracuse, charging that the law violated their Second Amendment rights. In his ruling Thursday, Suddaby agreed that some of its restrictions are unconstitutional.

“Simply stated, instead of moving toward becoming a shall-issue jurisdiction, New York State has further entrenched itself as a shall-not-issue jurisdiction. And, by doing so, it has further reduced a first-class constitutional right to bear arms in public for self defense … into a mere request,” Suddaby wrote.

He did let some of the law's provisions stand, including the need for character references and at least 16 hours of in-person firearm training.

Gov. Kathy Hochul, who signed the bill into law, said in a statement that “it is deeply disappointing that the judge wants to limit my ability to keep New Yorkers safe and to prevent more senseless gun violence.”

“We are working with the attorney general’s office to review the decision carefully and discuss next steps in an appeal,” she said.