New York is on the verge of banning guns in government buildings, health facilities, places where children gather and public transportation – including the New York City subway system – in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision making it easier to legally carry firearms in public.
Gov. Kathy Hochul, fresh off her Democratic primary victory, said Wednesday that she and legislative leaders have agreed to the broad strokes of a series of gun-control measures that are expected to be voted on Thursday, when state lawmakers return to the Capitol for an extraordinary session.
The details and language are still being worked out, she said. But broadly, Hochul said New York’s top policymakers agree the state will:
- Ban guns in “sensitive places,” which also include polling places and educational institutions
- Prevent guns from being carried in private businesses unless the business owner explicitly allows them
- Expand the list of criteria that disqualifies someone from obtaining a pistol permit, including if they have a “history of dangerous behavior”
- Expand the state’s “safe storage” law to require guns are locked while in a car, or in a home with someone under the age of 18 (up from the current 16)
- Require a background check to purchase ammunition for a gun that requires a permit
Hochul outlined the broad strokes of the package during a news conference at the New York State Intelligence Center in Rensselaer County — home to the two gun owners at the center of the Supreme Court case.
“Too many lives are being lost here in New York, but I will not rest as the governor of this state until we've done everything in our power to end this gun epidemic once and for all,” Hochul said.
In a statement, state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat representing Yonkers, said lawmakers “look forward to being back in Albany tomorrow.”
“As I have said over and over again, states must be the front line of defense,” she said. “We are ready to take action.”
The push for new gun-control legislation comes in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling last week in favor of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, which sued the state over its law requiring an applicant to show “proper cause” – essentially, a particular need to carry a gun for self-defense – in order to get a permit to carry a concealed firearm in public.
In the 6-3 ruling, the court found the century-old state law violated the U.S. Constitution, striking down the provision and making it easier to obtain a concealed carry permit.
But Justice Clarence Thomas’ ruling (and a concurring opinion by Justice Brett Kavanaugh) made clear that the state can still ban guns in “sensitive places,” such as government buildings.
Hochul said she and state lawmakers are in agreement on an expansive list of sensitive places. She also said they agree that guns should be presumptively banned from private businesses, unless the business owner proactively opts in to allowing them.
The presumption will be that they don’t want concealed carry unless they put out a sign saying, ‘Concealed carry weapons welcomed here'
“The presumption will be that they don’t want concealed carry unless they put out a sign saying, ‘Concealed carry weapons welcomed here,’” she said.
When asked if the state’s list of sensitive places would include places that serve alcohol, Hochul said they would be covered under the presumptive gun ban for private businesses.
Whatever lawmakers pass will be subject to strict legal scrutiny from gun groups – including the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association – that have been willing to sue in the past.
Tom King, president of the association, could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.
When a reporter asked Hochul whether this was an attempt to prevent guns from most public places, she said: “I can’t shut off all places.”
But what public places would be left? “Probably some streets,” she said.
“We know, literally the decision said: You cannot say the entire island of Manhattan is off limits,” Hochul said. “We understand. That's why I'm working hard with my team to have something that is common sense, that is legally sustainable.”
Hochul has already summoned the state Legislature back into session Thursday, despite the bill language not yet being finalized.
The Democrats who control the Senate and Assembly are scheduled to meet privately Wednesday night to discuss the measures and any outstanding concerns.
“We will be talking with our members this evening,” said Mike Whyland, a spokesperson for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat from the Bronx.