New York’s elected leaders lined up to decry Thursday’s Supreme Court decision upending a key element of the state’s gun control laws — and vowed to rework state laws to ensure central restrictions remain intact.
"This decision isn't just reckless, it's reprehensible," said Gov. Kathy Hochul shortly after the decision was announced Thursday morning.
"It's not what New Yorkers want,” she said, adding it would "place millions of New Yorkers in harm's way."
Hochul said she’d work with legislative leaders to craft a bill that would focus on restricting guns in "sensitive locations," and to change the process to get a permit for a concealed weapon. She also floated the idea of a special session.
"I'm prepared to call the Legislature back into session to deal with this," the governor said. "We're looking at dates.”
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins indicated she’d support reworking the laws.
“We must stand united to address the laws that keep allowing guns to fall into the wrong hands. New York will rise up to this latest challenge to pass additional gun safety legislation,” she said.
The court struck down a portion of the state’s law that required a handgun owner to show “proper cause” for why they need a concealed carry permit – basically forcing them to prove they had a need for self defense that was greater than the general public.
It does not mean anyone who legally owns a firearm will be able to carry their weapon in public automatically, Hochul’s counsel Liz Fine clarified. The state has different types of pistol permits – one that allows for someone to keep a handgun in their home or at their business, and another that allows them to carry it concealed in public.
Even after the decision, a handgun owner would still need to obtain the special concealed carry permit to have their weapon in public – though it will be far easier to obtain as they no longer have to show a need for self defense.
The current application process for a concealed carry permit takes time and ultimately requires a judge or police agency’s signoff, depending on where one lives in the state. The New York City Police Department handles permitting within the five boroughs.
“I would imagine that an individual who is seeking to obtain a permit for concealed carry would use this decision and go into an office today and apply for a permit,” Fine said. “The process will take whatever time it takes, but they will be able to rely on this Supreme Court case.”
The Supreme Court justices, who divided along ideological lines, maintained that local jurisdictions can craft restrictions on weapons in “sensitive places” like “schools and government buildings,” but found New York City as a whole didn’t qualify as such a sensitive place.
Mayor Eric Adams said the city was working with the state and federal government to identify and expand what is defined as a “sensitive location” and to rapidly revamp the application process for concealed-carry.
“We will work together to mitigate the risks this decision will create once it is implemented, as we cannot allow New York to become the Wild West,” Adams said in a statement.
At a press conference with the mayor Thursday afternoon, NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell clarified that for New Yorkers on the ground, having an unpermitted gun in public is still a crime, despite the ruling.
“The important thing to note today is that nothing changes,” she said. “If you carry a gun illegally in New York City you will be arrested.”
A group of Black public defenders from New York filed an amicus brief in support of the lawsuit brought by New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc., and the Legal Aid Society championed the court’s ruling once it came through, arguing the strict gun rules disproportionately targeted Black and brown gun owners.
“New York’s gun licensing regulations have been arbitrarily and discriminatorily applied, disproportionately ensnaring the people we represent, the majority of whom are from communities of color, in the criminal legal system,” said Redmond Haskins, a spokesperson for Legal Aid Society. “This decision may be an affirmative step toward ending arbitrary licensing standards that have inhibited lawful Black and Brown gun ownership in New York.”
Clarification: A previous version of this story mischaracterized the group of public defenders who filed an amicus brief in support of the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. They include Black Attorneys of Legal Aid, The Bronx Defenders and Brooklyn Defender Services, among others.