Senate Passes Bipartisan Gun Bill, Breaking Decades of Deadlock

On Thursday, New York leaders vowed to pass legislation broadly restricting the carrying of firearms as soon as possible and criticized the US Supreme Court for overturning a previous measure in a decision that will affect five other states and tens of millions of Americans.

Gov. Kathy Hochul said she would call a special legislative session as early as July and outlined proposals that could allow the state to retain some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation. Democratic leaders in the Legislative Assembly have pledged to work with the governor.

Ms Hochul was visibly angry at a press conference in Manhattan where she was preparing to sign a school safety measure named after a teenager killed in a 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. She called the Supreme Court’s decision “shocking, absolutely shocking” and said it would make New Yorkers less safe.

“We are already dealing with a major crisis of gun violence,” Ms Hochul said. “We don’t need to add fuel to this fire.”

Her comments come minutes after the publication of a Supreme Court decision written by Justice Clarence Thomas that declared unconstitutional a century-old law that gives officials in New York broad powers to decide who can carry guns. The decision will also affect California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey, where similar laws apply.

Judge Thomas made it clear that any law restricting the carrying of guns in New York as a whole would be unacceptable to the court.

“To put it simply,” he wrote, “New York City has no historical basis for declaring Manhattan Island a ‘sensitive place’ just because it is overcrowded and under the protection of the New York City Police Department.”

The ordinance did not affect states with “must make” laws. These measures give local officials less leeway in deciding who can carry weapons, but may still place significant restrictions on applicants. The difference, clearly articulated by Judge Brett Kavanaugh in the concurring opinion, could allow states where restrictions are widely supported to reformulate new rules.

In New York, Ms. Hochul called a meeting with the mayors of New York’s six largest cities to discuss possible legislation. She said leaders are working on changes to permit laws that may require additional training. They also plan to identify so-called sensitive areas where guns are prohibited. Ms Hochul declined to expand possible locations during the lawmakers’ debate, but said she thought the subway should be among them.

The state’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority is already drafting regulations to ban gun possession on subways, trains and buses, General Counsel Paige Graves said in a statement.

Ms Hochul added that she hopes to create a system where the possession of firearms in private business is banned unless the owners officially authorize their use.

Joseph Blocher, a Second Amendment expert at Duke University School of Law in North Carolina, said some of the proposals could meet the specifications set by the Supreme Court in its ruling, but warned that difficult questions would inevitably arise.

For example, he explained, officials can ban guns within 100 feet of a school or government building, and such buffer zones can make large parts of a city off-limits. But he said whether such restrictions would be accepted by the courts remains an open question.

The New York law is not yet in effect. The case is now returning to the lower court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which is expected to refer it in turn to the Federal District Court in New York, said Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California. Los Angeles, which specializes in constitutional law and gun policy.

According to Mr. Winkler, this court is likely to give New York a grace period instead of immediately repealing the law.

“We have seen this happen in the past where the courts have given legislators some time to pass the law,” he said. In that case, he added, the alternative would be to “make everyone carry guns on the streets of New York.”

New York officials were quick to explain that the decision would not take effect immediately.

“Nothing changes today,” Mayor Eric Adams said at a press conference at City Hall. He called the decision “terrible” and said it could undermine security efforts. The out-of-state arms trade, much of which goes through the so-called I-95 iron pipeline, is no longer necessary, he said.

“The iron pipeline will be Van Wyck,” the mayor said, referring to the expressway that runs through Queens. “Weapons will be purchased here.”

City Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell warned that as long as the current law remains in place, “if you illegally carry a gun in New York, you will be arrested.”

There are many rules in New York that are not affected by a court decision. A security law passed in 2013 bans assault weapons with military characteristics, requires background checks on almost every sale and transfer of ammunition and firearms, and prohibits those convicted of certain crimes from owning weapons. The so-called red flag law, passed in 2019, allows officials to seek orders to seize firearms from people they believe will engage in harmful acts.

Some New Yorkers welcomed the court’s decision. Republican gubernatorial candidates Lee Zeldin and Andrew Giuliani welcomed the decision.

Mr. Zeldin, the congressman and presumed favorite for the nomination, called the decision “protecting the constitutional rights of law-abiding New Yorkers who have been attacked for far too long.”

And Andrew Chernoff, owner of Coliseum Gun Traders in Uniondale, Long Island, said it was “more than just a gun decision.”

“He has a bigger message – and a bigger message is that you can’t twist and remake the Constitution to your liking,” said Mr. Chernoff, who has been in business since 1979.

Several public defender organizations in New York also supported the decision, saying the law had previously been used to discriminate against minority clients.

“More than 90 percent of people prosecuted for unlicensed possession of weapons in New York are black and brown,” a coalition of public defender groups said in a statement. “These are people who have been affected by New York’s discriminatory gun licensing scheme, which has contributed to the criminalization and incarceration of young New Yorkers of color.”

Their statement calls for the Legislative Assembly to develop gun regulations that will combat violence without perpetuating discrimination.

But at a press conference across the street from city hall, members of the legislature Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian legislatures said the decision would endanger their constituents and communities.

“If, in fact, anyone and everyone can get a gun license and ride the subways, in our parks, in our cinemas and in our concerts, we will be in big trouble,” he said. Senator Robert Jackson.

New York City officials have already fought crime with firearms. Between 2019 and 2021, the number of shootings resulting in injury doubled in New York. And overall shooting rates in 20 other neighborhoods, including Albany, Buffalo and Rochester, rose sharply over that period, according to the city and state data.

While forensic scientists are divided over what is driving the increase in violence, many point to disruptions caused by the pandemic and an easy influx of guns into New York from states with looser restrictions.

Research has shown that right-to-wear laws are associated with higher rates of violent crime. One National Bureau of Economic Research study found in 2017 that such laws were associated with “a higher aggregate rate of violent crime” by as much as 15 percent.

Zellnor Miri, a Brooklyn Democratic state senator who is one of the leading proponents of gun violence in the Legislature, said the court’s decision came while he was attending an elementary school graduation across from the 36th Street subway station in Sunset Park. , Brooklyn, where there were 10 people. wounded and dozens wounded when a gunman opened fire on a train in April.

“I just think about the kids I just saw graduating having to live in a city or state or country where the government prefers guns to their lives,” he said.

Dana Rubinstein, Hurubi Meko as well as Chelsea Rose Marsius made a report.

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