NEW YORK’S SULLIVAN ACT OFFENDS THE SECOND AMENDMENT TO THE U.S. CONSTITUTION AND MUST BE STRUCK DOWN
POST-BRUEN—WHAT IT ALL MEANS AND WHAT ITS IMPACT IS BOTH FOR THOSE WHO SUPPORT AND CHERISH THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS AND THOSE WHO DO NOT; THOSE WHO SEEK TO UNDERMINE AND EVENTUALLY DESTROY THE EXERCISE OF THE RIGHT AND THOSE WHO SEEK TO PRESERVE AND STRENGTHEN THE RIGHT BOTH FOR THEMSELVES AND THEIR DESCENDANTS
NEW YORK HAS ENACTED MANY GUN MEASURES FOR WELL OVER A CENTURY, BUT THERE IS ONLY ONE GUN LAW: THE SULLIVAN ACT OF 1911
For well over a century, ever since the enactment of the notorious Sullivan Act of 1911, the New York Government has successfully weathered all challenges to it.
Since then, New York has enacted many laws directed at guns and gun possession, but these laws, properly understood, are not standalone gun laws. They are all revisions or amendments to the archaic Sullivan Act.
This means that, while New York has MANY “gun laws” (lower case), the State truly has only ever had ONE “GUN LAW” (upper case).
It is important to understand this. As long as the Sullivan Act exists, Americans residing or working in New York who desire to exercise their fundamental natural law right to armed self-defense will face constant obstacles and hurdles, and even Government harassment that negatively impacts their enjoyment of the Second Amendment guarantee.
The 2022 U.S. Supreme Court case NYSRPA vs. Bruen did nothing to diminish the impact of the Sullivan Act in practice. New York’s GUN LAW is as dictatorial and as oppressive now, as it was prior to Bruen.
This became apparent once the New York State Legislature passed, and New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law, a new package of amendments to the Sullivan Act, titled, “Concealed Carry Improvement Act” of 2022, more often referred to by the acronym “CCIA.”
The CCIA pays lip service to the Bruen rulings insofar as, and only to the extent that, the GUN LAW sheds the verbiage “PROPER CAUSE” from the Sullivan Act. That is the only concession made. Other than that, the GUN LAW is no less burdensome than before the passage of the CCIA, and in one major respect, worse.
For, even with “PROPER CAUSE” struck from the GUN LAW, the “MAY ISSUE/GOOD CAUSE” requirement remains unscathed.
The Government simply subsumed “PROPER CAUSE” into “GOOD MORAL CHARACTER.” The new standard is as subjective as the old one.
Present holders of valid New York concealed handgun carry licenses must comply with a new set of requirements to carry a handgun in New York. They are placed in the same boat as new applicants.
New York gun owners were not fooled by the CCIA. Challenges to the Constitutionality of the amendments came within days of the Government’s passage of it. Those cases are ongoing.
The Arbalest Quarrel has written extensively on this and will stay on this. Readers are invited to peruse our comprehensive blog posts. And Ammoland Shooting Sports News has kindly reposted our articles. See, e.g., articles posted on January 20, 2023, January 9, 2023, January 6, 2023, January 5, 2023, and December 28, 2022—just to name a few.
Unconscionable constraints on the exercise of the right to armed self-defense under the Kathy Hochul Government are no more relaxed than under the Government of her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo, and remain a top priority for her administration. The Sullivan Act of 1911 makes this possible.
Suppression of the right of the people to keep and bear arms in New York continues unabated, with the infusion of more and more restrictive, repressive gun measures, inexorably whittling away at the natural law right to armed self-defense.
Nothing will stop this juggernaut unless or until either one of two things occurs: The State Legislature repeals the Sullivan Act, or the New York Federal or State Courts strike the Sullivan Act down.
Neither one of these two actions will occur as long as the New York Government and the New York State and Federal Courts retain a mindset abhorrent of firearms and antithetical to civilian citizen ownership and possession of firearms. Neither the New York Government nor the U.S. Supreme Court has any illusion about this.
The problem rests with the concept of “LICENSING OF HANDGUNS,” spawned by the Sullivan Act well over a century ago. The Sullivan Act introduced the formal handgun licensing scheme to New York.
The New York Government knows that, as long as handgun licensing remains ostensibly “lawful,” the Government can and will continue to make incursions on the Second Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court knows this, too.
“The current handgun laws of New York State and New York City trace their origin to the state Sullivan Dangerous Weapons Act of 1911. Proposed by Democratic State Senator and Tammany Hall leader Timothy D. ‘Big Tim’ Sullivan, who represented the slums of lower Manhattan, the Act made it a misdemeanor to possess a handgun without a permit and a felony to carry a concealed weapon in public. Whereas the Act designated judges as the licensing officers in much of the state, it gave the New York City police commissioner sole authority to grant or deny licenses in New York City, an arrangement that persists to this day. At least part of the motivation behind the Sullivan Act was a desire to keep firearms out of the hands of recent immigrants from Italy and Southern Europe—perceived to be prone to violence—by giving the New York Police Department (NYPD) the power to grant or deny permits. The NYPD’s Licensing Division still handles all handgun license applications in the city.
Today, it remains illegal to possess a handgun anywhere in New York State without a license. Section 265.01(1) of the New York Penal Law makes possession of a handgun an automatic class A misdemeanor, unless a person can qualify for one of the exceptions listed in section 265.20. For ordinary citizens, the only exemption that applies is possession with a license issued under section 400.00. . . .
Today, it remains illegal to possess a handgun anywhere in New York State without a license. . . .
As has been the case since the passage of the Sullivan Act, obtaining a license under Penal Law section 400.00 is the only lawful way for civilians in New York State to possess a handgun. . . .” “Pursued by a ‘Bear’? New York City’s Handgun Laws in the Wake of Heller and McDonald,” 46 Colum. J.L. & Soc. Probs. 145, Winter 2012, by Matthew Bridge, J.D. Candidate 2013, Columbia Law.”
New York holders of valid handgun licensees may not be immediately aware of an important fact. The handgun license acquired does not belong to the holder of it. The license is and remains the property of the licensing authority. Moreover, the conditions set by the licensing authority are terse, categorical, and blunt. For example, the holder of a handgun license issued by the New York City Police Department must surrender the license upon demand of the Police Department. That means his firearms must be vouchered as well. The reverse side of the license issued by the NYPD sets forth the following:
“This license is revocable at any time. Upon demand of a police officer, a licensee must immediately surrender his/her license and handguns. Lost, stolen, confiscated, or surrendered handguns must be reported to the License Division immediately at 646-610-5560 or 646-610-5154.” [see discussion of NYPD handgun licensing procedures in AQ article, posted on October 19, 2015]
The CCIA doesn’t address this. But one should assume that such language will be incorporated in such new handgun licenses that a New York license authority happens to issue.
When the High Court handed down the Bruen decision on June 23, 2022, the Court knew it was tinkering around the edges of a beast. It should have struck down the Sullivan Act, at that time, but it didn’t.
Possibly, Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito would have done just that. The Court certainly had an opportunity to attack the Sullivan Act head-on when the Court took up for review the New York Second Amendment case, NYSRPA vs. City of New York, 140 S. Ct. 1525 (2020). Little came of that.
THE U.S. SUPREME COURT HAD TWO OPPORTUNITIES TO CONFRONT NEW YORK’S NOTORIOUS SULLIVAN ACT HEAD-ON BUT IN BOTH INSTANCES THE COURT PUNTED
Chief Justice John Roberts, Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and the liberal wing of the Court would have none of that. They allowed the City of New York and past Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, to sidestep the unconstitutionality of the Sullivan Act, by amending both the New York City gun regulations and the New York State Gun Law to ostensibly cohere with the dictates of the Second Amendment.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh, adding an odd Concurring Opinion, attempted to split hairs, writing,
“I agree with the per curiam opinion’s resolution of the procedural issues before us—namely, that petitioners’ claim for injunctive relief against New York City’s old rule is moot and that petitioners’ new claims should be addressed as appropriate in the first instance by the Court of Appeals and the District Court on remand.
I also agree with Justice Alito’s general analysis of Heller and McDonald. Post, at 1540-1541; see Heller v. District of Columbia, 670 F. 3d 1244, 399 U.S. App. D.C. 314 (CADC 2011) (Kavanaugh, J., dissenting). And I share Justice Alito’s concern that some federal and state courts may not be properly applying Heller and McDonald. The Court should address that issue soon, perhaps in one of the several Second Amendment cases with petitions for certiorari now pending before the Court.”
Justice Alito joined by Justices Thomas and Gorsuch saw the game the New York Government had played on New York’s gun licensees.
The Chief Justice and other Justices permitted this. Perhaps they were pleased with it. But Associate Justices Alito and Thomas and Gorsuch would not stand for it. He set forth in detail his awareness of it, and his justified anger over it:
“By incorrectly dismissing this case as moot, the Court permits our docket to be manipulated in a way that should not be countenanced. Twelve years ago in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U. S. 570, 128 S. Ct. 2783, 171 L. Ed. 2d 637 (2008), we held that the Second Amendment protects the right of ordinary Americans to keep and bear arms. Two years later, our decision in McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U. S. 742, 130 S. Ct. 3020, 177 L. Ed. 2d 894 (2010), established that this right is fully applicable to the States. Since then, the lower courts have decided numerous cases involving Second Amendment challenges to a variety of federal, state, and local laws. Most have failed. We have been asked to review many of these decisions, but until this case, we denied all such requests.
On January 22, 2019, we granted review to consider the constitutionality of a New York City ordinance that burdened the right recognized in Heller. Among other things, the ordinance prohibited law-abiding New Yorkers with a license to keep a handgun in the home (a ‘premises license’) from taking that weapon to a firing range outside the City. Instead, premises licensees wishing to gain or maintain the ability to use their weapons safely were limited to the seven firing ranges in the City, all but one of which were largely restricted to members and their guests.
In the District Court and the Court of Appeals, the City vigorously and successfully defended the constitutionality of its ordinance, and the law was upheld based on what we are told is the framework for reviewing Second Amendment claims that has been uniformly adopted by the Courts of Appeals. One might have thought that the City, having convinced the lower courts that its law was consistent with Heller, would have been willing to defend its victory in this Court. But once we granted certiorari, both the City and the State of New York sprang into action to prevent us from deciding this case. Although the City had previously insisted that its ordinance served important public safety purposes, our grant of review apparently led to an epiphany of sorts, and the City quickly changed its ordinance. And for good measure the State enacted a law making the old New York City ordinance illegal.
Thereafter, the City and amici supporting its position strove to have this case thrown out without briefing or argument. The City moved for dismissal ‘as soon as is reasonably practicable’ on the ground that it had ‘no legal reason to file a brief.’ Suggestion of Mootness 1. When we refused to jettison the case at that early stage, the City submitted a brief but ‘stress[ed] that [its] true position [was] that it ha[d] no view at all regarding the constitutional questions presented’ and that it was “offer[ing] a defense of the . . . former rul[e] in the spirit of something a Court-appointed amicus curiae might do.” Brief for Respondents 2.
A prominent brief supporting the City went further. Five United States Senators, four of whom are members of the bar of this Court, filed a brief insisting that the case be dismissed. If the Court did not do so, they intimated, the public would realize that the Court is ‘motivated mainly by politics, rather than by adherence to the law,’ and the Court would face the possibility of legislative reprisal. Brief for Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse et al. as Amici Curiae 2-3, 18 (internal quotation marks omitted).
Regrettably, the Court now dismisses the case as moot. If the Court were right on the law, I would of course approve that disposition. Under the Constitution, our authority is limited to deciding actual cases or controversies, and if this were no longer a live controversy—that is, if it were now moot—we would be compelled to dismiss. But if a case is on our docket and we have jurisdiction, we have an obligation to decide it. As Chief Justice Marshall wrote for the Court in Cohens v. Virginia, 19 U.S. 264, 6 Wheat. 264, 404, 5 L. Ed. 257 (1821), “[w]e have no more right to decline the exercise of jurisdiction which is given, than to usurp that which is not given.”
Thus, in this case, we must apply the well-established standards for determining whether a case is moot, and under those standards, we still have a live case before us. It is certainly true that the new City ordinance and the new State law give petitioners most of what they sought, but that is not the test for mootness. Instead, “a case ‘becomes moot only when it is impossible for a court to grant any effectual relief whatever to the prevailing party.’” Chafin v. Chafin, 568 U. S. 165, 172, 133 S. Ct. 1017, 185 L. Ed. 2d 1 (2013) (emphasis added). “‘As long as the parties have a concrete interest, however small, in the outcome of the litigation, the case is not moot.’” Ibid. (emphasis added).
Respondents have failed to meet this ‘heavy burden.’ Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Slater, 528 U. S. 216, 222, 120 S. Ct. 722, 145 L. Ed. 2d 650 (2000) (per curiam) (internal quotation marks omitted). This is so for two reasons. First, the changes in City and State law do not provide petitioners with all the injunctive relief they sought. Second, if we reversed on the merits, the District Court on remand could award damages to remedy the constitutional violation that petitioners suffered.”
See also AQ two articles analyzing the “Gun Transport Case” posted on our website on April 27, 2020, and on May 8, 2020.
Our April 27, 2020 article was reposted on Ammoland Shooting Sports News, on that same April 27 date. See also the AQ article posted on Ammoland Shooting Sports news on April 26, 2021. In that article, we remarked with satisfaction that the U.S. Supreme Court had agreed to take up a second New York gun case. In that case, captioned, NYSRPA vs. Corlett, 141 S. Ct. 2566 (2021), the High Court granted certiorari:
“Petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit granted limited to the following question: Whether the State’s denial of petitioners’ applications for concealed-carry licenses for self-defense violated the Second Amendment.”
The public would come to know this case as NYSRPA vs. Bruen, once Kevin P Bruen, the new Superintendent of the New York State Police replaced his predecessor, Keith M. Corlett.
The matter discussed in NYSRPA vs. Bruen was of an order of magnitude greater than the earlier case, NYSRPA vs. City of New York, insofar as the Bruen case dealt more directly with the Sullivan Act—the Act that required Americans to obtain a license to carry a handgun in public for self-defense.
Yet, as impactful as the Bruen case WAS and IS, the High Court didn’t strike down the core of the Sullivan Act.
Chief Justice Roberts, and the liberal wing of the Court evidently realizing the possibility of this, consciously limited the issue on review.
The Bruen rulings, handed down on June 23, 2022, although potent and compelling, nonetheless provided the Hochul Government a modicum of wiggle room. That wiggle room allowed the Government to slither around the rulings through the enactment of a plethora of amendments to the Sullivan Act.
As implausible and unconvincing a response to the Bruen rulings, as these amendments are, they served a purpose: to waylay the full impact of Bruen. And that is exactly what Hochul and the State Government in Albany did.
NEW YORK GOVERNOR KATHY HOCHUL KNEW THE BRUEN RULINGS WOULD BE DAMAGING TO THE STATE’S GUN LAW, THE SULLIVAN ACT, BUT SHE WOULD NOT ALLOW BRUEN TO GET IN THE WAY OF HER AGENDA
Challenges to the amendments to the Sullivan Act, i.e., the CCIA, came at once. This wasn’t unexpected.
The Hochul Government knew this would occur since the Government’s amendments didn’t alleviate New York gun owners’ justified concerns over the exercise of the right to armed self-defense. The measures Hochul signed into law weren’t meant to do that. Hochul’s attack on the Second Amendment continued unabated and, in fact, intensified.
The Government had planned to proceed with its agenda to restrain and constrain the exercise of a Divine Natural Law Right ever since New York enacted its “GUN LAW.”
Heller and McDonald didn’t stop New York and other similar jurisdictions from continuing to constrain the exercise of the right of the people to keep and bear arms. And Bruen wasn’t going to constrain New York and these other jurisdictions, either.
The Hochul Government hoped the Courts would dismiss the challenges to the CCIA.
After all, the New York State and Federal Courts had more often than not acquiesced to the Government in the many years and decades since the passage of the Sullivan Act, and the Hochul Government had no reason to expect the Courts wouldn’t do so now.
Striking the expression, “PROPER CAUSE” from the GUN LAW served as mere window dressing.
The Government knew exactly what it was doing when Albany passed the CCIA and Kathy Hochul signed the CCIA into law, as did the Plaintiffs, who brought suit against the Government, intent on preventing the Hochul Government from defying Bruen.
Placing the requirement of “PROPER CAUSE” into another fixture of the Sullivan Act, “GOOD MORAL CHARACTER,” that the High Court didn’t address, apparently seemed to both Kathy Hochul and the Democrat Party-controlled Legislature in Albany, a convenient way to avoid the strictures of Bruen.
Hochul and Albany simply had to convince the New York Courts to go along with the charade.
But the lower U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York—the first Court called upon to deal with the CCIA—didn’t play along. This obviously surprised and puzzled and concerned the Hochul Government.
The Federal trial Court imposed a stay on enforcement of the CCIA by granting the Plaintiffs’ Motion for a Preliminary Injunction, during the pendency of the Plaintiffs’ suit on the merits.
The Hochul Government immediately appealed the decision of the New York District Court to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and the higher Court provided Hochul with some breathing room.
The Plaintiff New York concealed handgun carry licensees weren’t going to take this lying down. They appealed the adverse Second Circuit Court ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The High Court deemed the case important enough to review a non-final interlocutory order, a rare occurrence.
The High Court didn’t lift the stay imposed by the Second Circuit on the Plaintiff New York Concealed Carry Handgun licensees, but the result wasn’t a complete win the Hochul Government might have wished for, either.
The Hochul Government is able to breathe a sigh of relief, for a time at least. But the High Court made clear it will be watching closely to determine whether either the Second Circuit or the Government is dragging its feet on this.
A day of reckoning is coming for the New York Government. And the Sullivan Act’s head is in the guillotine.
Having grown visibly tired of seeing Heller, McDonald, and now Bruen waylaid by stubborn State Governments and their Courts, and by their brethren on the High Court as well, Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito will insist on attacking unconstitutional Government laws directly, and strenuously.
With a no-nonsense legal mind like Amy Coney Barrett on the High Court, New York gun owners and Americans around the Country may finally see their efforts through the years and decades finally bearing fruit.
Hochul and Albany know the Sullivan Act’s days are numbered. A gun licensing regime clearly designed to subvert the fundamental natural law right to armed self-defense is a thing that, long ago, should have been repealed by the State Legislature or struck down by the New York Courts, buried, and never again resurrected.
Instead, this thing has not only lingered but has through time grown appreciably stronger. It is an affront to the Nation’s history and heritage, and inconsistent with our Nation’s core beliefs, grounded as they are on the sanctity and inviolability of the individual Self over Government. New York’s Sullivan Act is inconsistent with the import and purport of the Bill of Rights and contrary to the natural sovereignty of the American citizenry over the Government.
The New York Safe Act of 2013, signed into law by Andrew Cuomo, and the Concealed Carry Improvement Act of 2022, signed into law by Cuomo’s successor, Kathy Hochul, are not to be perceived as models of a new era in America, but, rather as relics of an earlier time—a much earlier age—one harkening back to medieval feudalism.
The U.S. Supreme Court must strike down the Sullivan Act. That will serve to send a strong message to the States that have similar Anti-Second Amendment regimes, and that will also serve to send a strong message to the Biden Administration, too.
These so-called “elites” who machinate for a world empire in their meetings held in Davos and in the Government offices of Brussels and in the clandestine meetings of the Bilderberg Group and in other such secretive enclaves dispersed throughout the world are all throwbacks to and should be perceived as nothing more or other than throwbacks to medieval Europe.
These “elites” seek a return to the world of the Middle Ages, a world of empire, consisting of legions of abjectly penurious serfs, the “preterite,” and a minute number of extravagantly wealthy and powerful royalty and nobility, the “elect.”
The empire this new royalty and nobility envisions, and which is taking shape, is designed to embrace all of Europe, the British Commonwealth Nations, and the United States as well.
Craven toadies like Hochul and Newsome and the brain-addled, corrupt Biden, have made clear that their interests are not our Nation’s interests nor those of our people. And their allegiances are not to our Nation, nor to our Constitution, nor to our people.
Their aim is to incite ill will among the American people and to destabilize our cities, counties, states, and the entire Union, so that the whole may weaken and fall.
These destructive forces then intend to merge the remains of our Country and its people into a grandiose neo-feudalistic world order that serves the interests and goals of their foreign, alien masters, not their Countrymen.
Americans should resist all efforts, seductive or forceful, aimed to compel compliance.
We can begin by making clear that we will not relinquish our Bill of Rights.
We will not relinquish our duty and our ability to resist tyranny.
We will not relinquish our natural law God-Given right to keep and bear arms.
Copyright © 2023 Roger J Katz (Towne Criour), Stephen L. D’Andrilli (Publius) All Rights Reserved.
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