NEW YORK GOVERNOR KATHY HOCHUL DOESN’T CARE WHAT THE U.S. SUPREME COURT SAYS ABOUT THE STATE’S HANDGUN LICENSING STATUTE
POST BRUEN—WHAT IT ALL MEANS BOTH FOR THOSE WHO SUPPORT THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS AND THOSE WHO SEEK TO UNDERMINE AND EVENTUALLY DESTROY EXERCISE OF THE RIGHT
NY GOVERNOR KATHY HOCHUL CONTINUES TO CONSTRAIN THE CIVILIAN CITIZEN’S RIGHT OF ARMED SELF-DEFENSE
Not content simply to say New York won’t comply with Bruen, the New York Governor’s response to Bruen points to open revolt with the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Constitution.
On June 23, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court officially released its decision in the Bruen case. On that same date a Press Release appeared on New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s website. It says much about her position on civilian citizen possession of handguns in public and what she thinks about the Court and its decision in Bruen. It reads as follows:
“Good morning, everyone. We just received some very disturbing news from Washington; that the Supreme Court of the United States of America has stripped away the state of New York’s right and responsibility to protect its citizens with a decision—which we are still digesting—which is frightful in its scope of how they are setting back this nation and our ability to protect our citizens back to the days of our founding fathers. And the language we’re reading is shocking.
As Governor of the State of New York, my number one priority is to keep New Yorkers safe, but today the Supreme Court is sending us backwards in our efforts to protect families and prevent gun violence. And it’s particularly painful that this came down at this moment. . . .
Today, the Supreme Court struck down a New York law that limits who can carry concealed weapons. Does everyone understand what a concealed weapon means? That you have no forewarning that someone can hide a weapon on them and go into our subways, go into our grocery stores like stores up in Buffalo, New York, where I’m from, go into a school in Parkland or Uvalde.
This could place millions of New Yorkers in harm’s way. And this is at a time when we’re still mourning the loss of lives, as I just mentioned. This decision isn’t just reckless, it’s reprehensible. It’s not what New Yorkers want. We should have the right of determination of what we want to do in terms of our gun laws in our state.
If the federal government will not have sweeping laws to protect us, then our states and our governors have a moral responsibility to do what we can and have laws that protect our citizens because of what is going on—the insanity of the gun culture that has now possessed everyone all the way up to even to the Supreme Court.
The law we’re talking about has been in place since the early 1900s. And now to have our ability to determine who is eligible for a concealed carry permit—this is not an ordinary permit. This is a special use that you can hide it from people. We have limitations, if it’s for a proper cause, someone who’s been threatened, someone who needs it for their job as a security guard. We have classifications where it is allowed and has been allowed for over a hundred years.”
In tone and content Hochul’s message is astonishing. It is a polemic directed at both present and future handgun license holders in New York. But, more than that, it is a presumptuous and dangerous assault on the Third Branch of Government, the U.S. Supreme Court, and on the sanctity and inviolability of the citizen’s natural law right of armed self-defense as codified in the Second Amendment of the Nation’s Bill of Rights.
In that Press Release, Hochul says she’s “still digesting” the scope of the decision. But is that true? Hardly. New York had prepared its response to Bruen months ago.
On July 2, 2022, seven days after the release of the decision, and a scant two days after she called for an “extraordinary session of the Legislature in Albany . . . to discuss the impacts of the [Bruen]. . . decision overturning New York State law that previously placed ‘proper cause’ restrictions on the issuance of permits for concealed carry firearms in the state,” Hochul signed into law an extensive and elaborate array of amendments to New York’s handgun licensing statute, including amendments to related statutes, that sailed through the State Legislature in Albany. See article on the jdsupra website.
The speed of the process—from drafting of amendments, to their introduction in the State Senate and Assembly, then on to assignment to Committee, Committee markups, then passage of the amendments by both the Senate and the Assembly and the forwarding of the amendments to Governor Kathy Hochul for her signature—all in the space of a week is remarkable—too remarkable to be believed.
One must infer that Hochul had notice of the decision well in advance of the official release of the case decision—probably at some point after oral argument that took place in November 2022.
The amendments were ready to go upon official release of the Bruen decision. Hochul’s signing off on the amendments was, then, a foregone conclusion. The release of the Bruen decision simply served to trigger enactment of the amendments to New York’s handgun licensing Statute.
How bad are these amendments? They are worse than one can imagine. Present holders of valid unrestricted and restricted New York concealed handgun carry licenses will find renewing their licenses difficult. And first-time applicants for concealed handgun carry licenses will find the requirements for issuance of them no less confounding and onerous than before Bruen, and much more vexing.
How did New York get to this point? Actually, New York had been moving toward this point for quite some time!
The progenitor of New York’s modern handgun licensing regime codified in NY CLS Penal § 400.00 et. seq., that took effect on September 1, 1967, is the Sullivan Dangerous Weapons Act of 1911. It was enacted on August 31, 1911.
Handgun carry licensing is not of recent vintage, then. The State has required handgun licensing for close to 112 years, and the State’s desire to keep it is deeply entrenched in the psyche of the Government, and in the psyche of many residents of the State.
New York’s handgun license statute—the Sullivan Act that Kathy Hochul refers to in her Press Release—is a reminder to the State, to the Nation, and to the U.S. Supreme Court that the Sullivan Act is here to stay in New York, regardless of anything the U.S. Supreme Court has to say about it.
The Sullivan Act has gone through several incarnations since its enactment in 1967—but it always remains true to form—a handgun licensing regime, whose roots are deep and wide.
Ostensibly created to deal with incessant crime by constraining the public’s access to handguns, the Sullivan Act failed in that objective, but New York kept it anyway, adding to it through the subsequent years and decades.
Indeed, the fairly recent New York Safe Act of 2013 is merely an aspect and extension of it, not distinct from it. And several amendments to the Safe Act have proceeded since—a flurry of them only in the past couple of years.
The most recent amendments, springing directly from the Bruen decision, take effect, formally, on Monday September 4, 2022.
As the New York State Court of Appeals has explained, the Sullivan Act qua Penal Law § 400.00 “is the exclusive statutory mechanism for the licensing of firearms in New York State. O’Connor v. Scarpino,” 83 N.Y.2d 919, 638 N.E.2d 950 (N.Y. Ct. App. 1994). And that means, for the civilian citizen, there is no way to get around it. Handgun licensing is the foundation of New York’s assault on the Second Amendment and that of many other jurisdictions as well.
New York’s handgun license statute has gone through several iterations since its enactment in 1967. But the most recent amendments to it, coming on the heels of Bruen, will take effect on September 4, 2022.
Section 400.00 plus the Post-Bruen Amendments IS the Sullivan Act brought into the 21st Century.
Back then as now, New York, and other jurisdictions, including California and Illinois, rationalized civilian arms control as necessary to promote “public safety.” And Governor Hochul’s Press Release echoes that sentiment that hearkens back to the turn of the 20th Century, even as the crime rate in New York in the 21st Century continues to soar.
Continued constraints on civilian access to firearms in defiance of the Second Amendment has become an end in itself although Anti-Second Amendment proponents will rarely, if ever, say that and as many in Government will readily deny it even as they push for further constraints on the exercise of it.
“As the California Supreme Court ruled in People v. Camperlingo (69 Cal. 466 ), ‘It is clear that, in the exercise of the police power of the state, that is, for public safety or the public welfare generally, such right [to bear arms] may be either regulated or, in proper cases, entirely destroyed.’ The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in Biffer v. City of Chicago (278 Ill. 562 ) that ‘the sale of deadly weapons may be absolutely prohibited.’” “Firearms Regulation: A Historical Overview,” 28 Crime & Just. 137, by Michael A. Bellesiles, Professor of History, Emory University.
The New York Governor, Kathy Hochul, and the State Legislature, and the State and Federal District and U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals are all onboard with this. The average civilian citizen resident of New York has wide chasm to cross to obtain the coveted prize of an unrestricted concealed handgun carry license. And that chasm has just become wider.
“PUBLIC SAFETY” IS A RUSE TO GET NEW YORKERS ON BOARD WITH FURTHER RESTRICTIONS TO THE LICENSING STATUTE
The lure of “public safety” explains the Sullivan Act’s longevity. Anti-Second Amendment jurisdictions refer to it often.
Yet, to what extent Governor Kathy Hochul and the Legislature can honestly be said to believe that stringent curbs to civilian citizen possession of firearms does truly promote public safety—given the horrific upward spiral of violent crime in New York, predominantly in New York City, is open to conjecture. But the fact many New Yorkers believe that keeping handguns out of the hands of average, law-abiding, and responsible civilian citizens does contain violent crime, is apparently enough for both the Governor and for the State Legislature in Albany to continue to promote further and severe constraints on civilian citizen armed self-defense.
If “Public safety”—whether clever, deceptive Government ruse or honest, albeit erroneous, Government belief—serves as the raison d’être for the handgun licensing regime, then application of “proper cause” is the mechanism that serves to constrain the average, rational, responsible, law-abiding civilian citizen from lawfully possessing a handgun in the public sphere. Armed self-defense thus remains a privilege in New York, notwithstanding the language of the Second Amendment that professes to express armed self-defense as a fundamental, unalienable right of the people.
New Yorkers can change handgun carry laws in New York. And it is a simple process to do so as long as the public has the will to do so: simply vote Governor Hochul and those Legislators who hold the same views as she does toward handgun licensing in New York, out-of-office. New Yorkers have an opportunity to do so this November 2022.
If New Yorkers demur, then they will continue to suffer. Violent crime will continue to rise, and innocent people will continue to die.
A leap of faith is required here. It shouldn’t be difficult, given the irrationality of restrictive gun measures that simply target the law-abiding citizen, and not the criminal. But strong beliefs, even irrational ones die hard.
NEW YORK GOVERNOR KATHY HOCHUL DOESN’T GIVE A DAMN WHAT THE U.S. SUPREME COURT SAYS ABOUT NEW YORK’S HANDGUN CARRY LAW, SHE PRESUMES TO KNOW BETTER THAN THE COURT.
It is one thing for a Government to rely on an erroneous belief as justification for infringing a fundamental, unalienable, immutable, eternal natural law right of the American people. It is quite another thing to brashly defy the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. Supreme Court, substituting one’s own judgment, and normative beliefs, and personal political and social philosophy, for that of the precepts and stricture of the U.S. Constitution.
The U.S. Constitution, as promulgated by men much wiser than Governor Hochul and Anti-Second Amendment Legislators in Albany has, through the test of time, proved its value.
This Country, in the space of almost 250 years, has outstripped any other modern Nation, becoming by far the wealthiest, most powerful, most prosperous, any Nation on Earth. The U.S. Constitution, grounded on the precepts of Individualism has enabled this. It is no accident.
The prescription for the Nation’s success is simple: Government exists to serve the interests of the American people, and they, not Government, are sovereign over Government and over their own destiny.
Indeed, the tacit theme of all three seminal Second Amendment cases—Heller, McDonald, and Bruen—is that Government must pay homage to the natural law rights of man.
But Governor Hochul and the New York State Legislature will have none of that just that. The forces they represent and pay homage to have other plans for Americans. There is no limit to their disdain for the Constitution, their rudeness toward the U.S. Supreme Court, and their contempt for the American people.
Through tortuous, guileful legislative legerdemain, the New York Government has enacted an elaborate set of amendments to the State’s handgun licensing Statute, Section 400.00, and to the concealed handgun carry Section of the Statute, especially, NY CLS Penal § 400.00(2)(f). These amendments serve merely as a pretense of compliance with Bruen, and a poor one at that.
But they don’t fool anyone, especially the Court. On inspection, the State’s “Post-Bruen” Amendments to Section 400.00 are excessively harsh, brutal really.
To understand how that is, it helps to understand what the New York handgun licensing Statute looked like prior to Bruen. We delve into that and compare and contrast the original Section 400.00 handgun licensing Statute with the amendments to it in the next article.
NEW YORK’S HANDGUN LICENSE STATUTE PRIOR TO BRUEN IS BAD; AFTER BRUEN IT IS WORSE
In the most recent iteration, prior to Bruen, applicants for any New York handgun license—whether restricted or not—had to comply with Section 400.00(a), which denies possession of a handgun to anyone who is under disability as defined in Federal Statute, 18 U.S.C § 922. New York has adopted that Statute for its own use.
Up till now, to obtain a concealed handgun carry license, applicants in the general population had to demonstrate “proper cause,” set forth in, but never defined in, Penal Code Section 400.00(a).
The State Legislature has left it up to the licensing authorities of the Counties to specify “proper cause,” and what that is has remained quite nebulous. The whole point of this is to make it difficult for the average person to acquire a carry license. So, few have tried, and most that have tried have failed secured such licenses.
Under the New York Constitution’s Home Rule provision, though, New York City is permitted to adopt its own “proper cause” requirements for applicants of concealed handgun carry licenses, and it has done so. These are set forth in 38 RCNY 5-03. They are stringent, but, at least, not inherently nebulous.
Individuals who presently hold valid concealed handgun carry licenses in the City, which NYPD License Division has exclusive authority to issue, have, through time, adapted to the NYPD License Division’s “proper cause” requirements.
These requirements are aimed at providing a mechanism for the City’s entrepreneurial class to obtain licenses.
It suggests an explicit attempt at accommodation of business practices—operating as both cause and effect.
The NYPD License Division establishes the requirements for business entrepreneurs to qualify for a concealed handgun carry license, and those entrepreneurs do their best to comply with those requirements.
Compliance with those requirements have thus enabled a small number of people, New York City’s entrepreneurial class that happens to handle substantial amounts of cash in the usual course of their business, to obtain a coveted handgun carry license. The NYPD License Division establishes the criteria under which applicants for handgun carry licenses can satisfy requirements, and those business applicants oblige the NYPD.
So, it has been for decades. That now goes out the door.
Under the requirements for a concealed handgun carry license in New York City and in the rest of the State—that take effect in September—the City’s Rules will not be valid. Be that as it may, at present, the NYPD License Division has yet to revise its Rules for issuance of concealed handgun licenses. But the Division will have to. The City’s Home Rule Charter gives the NYPD License Division substantial leeway to establish its “proper cause” criteria, but the City’s criteria have to be consistent with the intent of the Statute. The present rules are not consistent with the amendments to Section 400.00 that take effect in September.
Those entrepreneurs who have business establishments in the City and who have adapted their business procedures to cohere to the NYPD License Divisions procedure will find their pro forma renewal process no longer open to them.
They are in jeopardy of losing acquisition of concealed handgun carry licenses that heretofore they could rely on as long as their business operations and practices remained consistent through time. Upon renewal of their present license, they must comply with the new requirements or forsake their concealed handgun carry license. We investigate those in the next article, Part Seven of this series.
Copyright © 2022 Roger J Katz (Towne Criour), Stephen L. D’Andrilli (Publius) All Rights Reserved.