Mayor Eric Adams on Thursday denounced the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn New York’s law that restricts gun owners from carrying their firearms in public spaces, a long-awaited ruling that he had said kept him awake at night.
“It’s clear we’ve reached the point where we won’t have any sleep,” the mayor told reporters during a solemn press conference in City Hall held two hours after the opinion was released.
The ruling comes as shootings have been declining in New York City, but they are still above pre-pandemic levels. The most recently available NYPD statistics show shootings are down — 592 so far this year, from 669 the same time a year ago — an 11.5% drop compared to the same time last year.
Adams, who stood alongside NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Philip Banks III, and his chief legal counsel, Brendan McGuire, said that he had asked McGuire to assess the level of concern he had over the decision on a scale of one to 10.
“It’s very close to a 10,” the mayor said, adding, “We can say with certainty this decision has made every single one of us less safe from gun violence.”
The ruling means that the original case will be remanded to the state court, where a judge is expected to concur with the high court ruling and reach a decision that will make it easier for gun owners with legal permits to carry their weapons in public places.
In the meantime, both Adams and Sewell stressed that no changes to the NYPD’s gun permitting process had been made and those without such permits would be arrested for illegally carrying their firearms into public areas.
“Nothing changes today,” Sewell said.
Looking ahead, Adams said the city’s legal team would look into designating certain parts of the city as “sensitive locations” where guns would not be permitted.
He also urged Gov. Kathy Hochul to convene state lawmakers in Albany to analyze the decision and explore what kinds of new restrictions could be passed. Immediately after the ruling, the governor said she’s prepared to call the state Legislature back for an emergency session.
Adams had previously said that the anticipated ruling would make the city a nightmare to police.
Jeffrey Fagan, a Columbia University law professor who studies policing, said that in addition to expanding the definition of places where guns are prohibited, the city could also try to reduce hours when guns can be sold as well as aggressively police gun shows.
But Fagan said the ruling conveys a “very broad license to carry” guns in public. Any efforts by the city to curtail that would likely provoke future legal challenges.
“So a law prohibiting open carry in sports venues might be challenged,” he said. “An ordinance prohibiting open carry in places where alcohol is served might also be challenged.”
Asked if the city might apply some of Fagan’s suggested measures, McGuire said that his team needed more time to assess the Supreme Court’s decision.
But he added, “All options are on the table.”