Representatives from many law enforcement agencies meet every weekday morning in Manhattan’s nondescript office building to discuss the shootings and arrests of gunmen in New York City.
The New York Police Department already has more than 3,000 guns recovered this year. This is a 28-year record. Authorities in New York and across the state are awaiting a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, expected this month. This ruling could overturn a century-old New York State law that prohibits handguns from being carried.
Officials believe that the law being overturned could make it easier to legally possess a firearm in the state. This could have serious consequences for cities struggling to curb gun crime spikes in recent years.
“A lot more people are going to now want to go out and get guns. And for all the wrong reasons,” Richard Aborn, president and CEO of the non-profit Citizens Crime Commission said that this is because people are looking for the wrong reasons. I have heard from people who said they bought a gun. This is something that I would never have imagined. Although they won’t use it illegally, they feel the need to arm themselves in a manner that is different from mine.
He said that if New Yorkers were more armed, minor confrontations could become deadly.
The Supreme Court heard arguments about the law in November. A number of justices seemed predisposed against it, leading experts and experts to believe the law will be overturned. The ramifications of this could extend beyond New York. A few other states, such as California, Connecticut and Maryland, could have similar laws that could be invalidated.
Anyone who wishes to buy a handgun in New York must apply for a state licence. People who wish to be able to carry their guns outside of their home are subjected to additional scrutiny. Both upstate New Yorkers filed petitions before the Supreme Court to challenge the laws governing handgun ownership. Gun control advocates in the state fear that rules for purchasing handguns may be next.
25 states allow citizens to carry guns in their state without the need for a permit. Most of these laws were passed within the last decade. A few others have been passed in the last two years, including in Ohio and Georgia.
Kathy Hochul, the governor of New York, has indicated that she would be open to calling a special session for the state Legislature in the event the law was repealed. After a massacre in Buffalo where a teenage gunman acted out of racism and killed 10 Black shoppers at a grocery shop, Hochul brought up the law, saying that her administration was “preparing our state for what could be a Supreme Court decision that allows people to carry concealed weapons. We’re ready.”
The spokesperson for Governor Scott declined to provide further details about the preparations.
Local officials are also getting ready for their offices. Eric Adams, the Mayor of Philadelphia, stated that he and others are currently preparing legislation for the federal, state, and local levels. He also said that the impending ruling keeps them awake at night.
Alvin L. Bragg (the Manhattan district attorney) sent an email last week to his prosecutors stating that his team would be working with Hochul, Adams, and other district attorneys to create new legislation to “protect New Yorkers and withstand legal challenge.”
He stated that the office was preparing for a storm of litigation if the law is overturned. This could include lawyers filing motions dismissing gun possession indictments or even convictions.
Bragg said in an email that“If the Supreme Court does issue the type of opinion that many predict, we will have to innovate and adapt to meet the new public safety challenges that the decision may pose — and we will”.
The law under review makes it illegal to openly carry a handgun, while a permit is required for concealed carry. These permits are subject to a “proper cause” requirement, which means applicants must show the courts or local police that they have an increased need to carry a firearm. The officials then decide whether the applicant will receive a permit. This process was challenged by the attorneys for upstate New Yorkers in a case that reached the Supreme Court.
It is likely that New York will respond to the ruling by creating a new measure that meets all the requirements of the law if the court decides against it.
“Everything depends on the breadth of the court’s decision and the grounds for why the law is unconstitutional,” stated Joseph Blocher, a Second Amendment specialist at Duke University School of Law.
The court could decide that the current standard is too restrictive, which would require New York to relax its standards. Or, it could declare that it is too vague and force the state to provide more guidance to licensing officials. Blocher stated “Those are two different kinds of potential constitutional problem that would call for two different kinds of response from the Legislature”. Depending on what the justices decide, it might still be possible to put restrictions on gun ownership in New York City.
New York state allows handgun licenses to be granted or denied by local officials. These include state judges and police departments. All permits are handled by the New York Police Department.
Although the state court system doesn’t keep a central database of licenses approved or denied, it is easier to get them in rural areas than in urban areas, according to Barbara D. Underwood (New York’s solicitor general), who represented the state before the Supreme Court.
However, those who want the law to be rescinded claim that it gives too much power to local officials. Aidan Johnston, director of federal affairs at Gun Owners of America (a pro-gun lobbying organization), said that “New York’s concerns are unfounded and violate our rights, and leave New Yorkers disarmed in the face of evil,”
Johnston was asked about data from Everytown for Gun Safety. This gun control advocacy group provides data that shows a correlation between weakening gun laws and higher murder and suicide rates. Johnston stated that there is no evidence that the two are in direct relationship. Johnston stated that New York City has “a crime problem, not a Second Amendment problem.”
New York City’s shootings and other gun crimes rose sharply in the summer 2020. Law enforcement authorities stated that more New Yorkers would likely make it harder to do their jobs.
“When a police officer stops a person with a gun in view, now they have to ask themselves a question,” said John Miller, the Police Department’s deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism. “What’s the difference between the person who is going to be shooting at me and the person who is going to be a pulling a permit out of their wallet?”
Research has shown that New York City’s criminals use guns that are not legally owned, but were often legally purchased in other states before being brought into New York City. Miller stated that the Supreme Court’s ruling could lead to more gun thefts from homes and cars. He said that this trend has been seen in other states with looser carrying laws.
He also said that legally purchased guns in New York might be used more frequently in crimes because they are no longer required to travel for their purchase. He said, “When the crime guns begin to be from here,”
Chanelle Anderson, a 33 year-old violence “interrupter” who works for BronxConnect to resolve potential conflicts, stated that more guns would increase the likelihood of shootings and people being sent to prison or jail.
She stated that “If they legalize firearms, that’s making it easier to destroy our communities even more,”
Even though the Supreme Court’s decision is minor in scope, confusion can still prevail within the first 24 hours. Aborn stated that he hoped Adams and the five district attorneys would stress to the public that, in the event of any changes to the law being made, background checks and licenses will still be required for gun purchases.
He said that “People are going to misinterpret whatever the decision is and immediately assume that any gun they have now, even if it’s an illegal gun, suddenly becomes a legal gun”.