WHY DO PEOPLE LIKE NEW YORK’S GOVERNOR KATHY HOCHUL REFUSE TO ACCEPT THE FUNDAMENTAL, UNALIENABLE RIGHT TO ARMED SELF-DEFENSE?
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
THE NEW YORK HOCHUL ADMINISTRATION’S PROBLEMS ARE OF ITS OWN MAKING. IT WOULD RATHER SPEND ITS ENERGIES AND TAX-PAYER MONIES FIGHTING LAW-ABIDING CITIZENS, RATHER THAN FIGHTING CRIME. NEW YORKERS CAN EXPECT MUCH MORE OF THIS IN THE FUTURE, FOUR YEARS OF IT.
On June 23, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court came out with its third seminal case law rulings, following Heller in 2008 and McDonald in 2010. The three cases, taken together, hold the right of armed self-defense is a natural law right embodied in the Second Amendment.
These three cases don’t sit well with State and local jurisdictions that abhor both guns and the notion of the right of civilian citizens to keep and bear them. And they have weaseled around the Heller and McDonald cases for over a decade—well before Bruen.
Bruen arose as a direct challenge to one of the most restrictive Gun Law regimes in the Nation: codified in N.Y. Penal Law § 400.00 et. seq. The foundation of New York’s Gun Law is its draconian licensing requirement. All handgun licensing interposes the Government between the natural law right of the people to keep and bear arms and the Government that intrudes upon the exercise of that right.
New York’s handgun licensing scheme is among the most intrusive in the Country.
Prior to Bruen, a person who sought to carry a handgun had to demonstrate “proper cause” to do so. But the State Government held armed self-defense against a visible threat in public as de facto insufficient “proper cause” justification for issuance of a license to carry.
The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed.
In Bruen, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the right of armed self-defense applies equally outside the home and in it. This ruling isn’t a Court based legal fiction, as Anti-Second Amendment proponents maintain. The right of armed self-defense is embodied in the Second Amendment.
The Court in Bruen, and in Heller before it, simply illuminated and elucidated upon what the language of the Second Amendment asserts. It did not make new law.
The Court thereupon struck down New York’s “may issue” “proper cause” requirement for those people applying for a concealed handgun carry license. Armed self-defense is de jure sufficient reason to carry, and it is presumptive in any application for a license. Therefore the applicant need not be required to expressly assert it.
To be sure, New York Federal and State Courts never directly attacked the inherent right of the people to keep and bear arms because that was irrefutable natural law, cemented in the U.S. Constitution. And, if the Courts harbored the belief that the right, though fundamental, applied only to one’s service in a militia, the Heller case settled the matter, cadit quaestio.
Even so, New York Courts routinely affirmed licensing officials’ denial of handgun carry licenses. The Courts reasoned that, even if a person has a fundamental, unalienable right to keep and bear arms, the person must have a valid handgun license to exercise the right, and acquiring one is a privilege, not a right, a privilege bestowed upon one by the grace of the State, and a privilege easily revoked. And, because the license serves as a condition precedent to exercising the right, the New York Government effectively created a proverbial “Catch 22.”
Thus, Anti-Second Amendment jurisdictions could continue to offend the Second Amendment guarantee while pretending to pay homage to it.
New York’s handgun licensing scheme interferes with the exercise of a natural law right on an elementary level. There’s no doubt about that. That fact is clear, categorical, unequivocal, and irrefutable.
The Court simply tinkered gingerly around the edges.
But, by failing to strike down the New York handgun licensing, as unconstitutional, it remains rigid, unscathed.
Justices Thomas and Alito knew that the Bruen rulings were faulty, that the rulings did not go far enough, and they could not have been happy about that.
They would have struck down the entirety of the licensing structure if given a free hand, but Chief Justice Roberts, and possibly Justice Kavanaugh, too, likely prevented them from doing so if they were to obtain their votes.
In Heller, the late eminent Justice Antonin Scalia, along with Justices Thomas and Alito, had to make concessions to Roberts and to Associate Justice Kennedy to get their votes.
Now, in Bruen, Justices Thomas and Alito had to make concessions once again. That meant they must leave Government licensing of handguns alone.
And that was all that New York Governor Hochul and the Democrat Party-controlled Legislature in Albany needed to know. It gave them the edge they needed to slither around the Bruen rulings.
The Anti-Second Amendment New York Government machine did strike the words, “Proper Cause,” from State Statute, but that meant nothing. They simply inserted “Proper Cause” into the “Good Moral Character” requirement of the State’s Gun Law. And the High Court in Bruen never struck down that latter requirement from the Gun Law.
The “Good Moral Character” Requirement had hitherto existed as an unnecessary appendage to New York Gun Law, affixed to a licensing official’s denial of an application for any kind of handgun license.
A licensing officer might for example refer to a person’s past arrest record in denying issuance. In the denial letter, the licensing officer would point to the arrest record as the basis for refusal, adding the redundant phrase that such past arrest record shows the applicant lacks Good Moral Character to possess a handgun.
In the package of amendments, referred to as the “Concealed Carry Improvement Act” or “CCIA,” the Hochul Administration’s “Good Moral Character” Requirement serves now as the salient basis for denying one a handgun license of any kind: restricted premise or unrestricted carry license.
The applicant for a New York handgun license must now produce a volume of information, demonstrating his internal thought processes, especially his political and social ones.
Given the depth and breadth of the Amendments to the Gun Law, the Hochul Government likely had the amendments prepared well in advance of the U.S. Supreme Court rulings—their passage in the Senate and Hochul’s signing them into law operating as a mere formality, taking place scarcely a week after the Court came down with its decision.
The challenges to those amendments came just as hurriedly.
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York dismissed the original suit filed against enforcement of the CCIA, without prejudice. But the Court had dismissed the case for administrative, not substantive failings, in the lawsuit. The Court made clear its concern with the law, tacitly encouraging the Plaintiff, Ivan Antonyuk, holder of a valid New York handgun carry license, to refile his complaint.
Hochul, as the scurrilous politician she is, took the dismissal as a win and said in a statement on her website that the Court agreed with the constitutionality of the CCIA. It did not.
The original Plaintiff, Antonyuk, along with several other holders of New York handgun carry licenses filed a new lawsuit.
This time, they named Governor Hochul as a Party Defendant, along with several other New York officials, including the Attorney General of the State.
And this time the same U.S. District Court that heard and dismissed the original suit, granted the Plaintiffs a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO).
Hochul was furious and her Attorney General immediately filed an emergency appeal of the District Court’s order, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Not unexpectedly, the Second Circuit did not act on the Appeal, probably because the Midterm Elections were around the corner, and the Court may have wished to wait to see whether Hochul was elected Governor although that should not factor into their decision.
The Midterms are now over, and, whether Hochul won the election by hook or crook, she is York’s Governor, and the residents of the State must suffer her for at least four years. And that means, among other things, that she will fervently defend New York’s amendments to its Gun Law. And she has plenty of time to do so. And that raises the question:
What will the Second Circuit do? Will it overturn the TRO or allow it to continue? If the TRO were the only matter before the Court, the Second Circuit would remand the case to the District Court that had issued it.
The Second Circuit could issue its order keeping the stay in place while the District Court decides the substantive issues. That would benefit the Plaintiffs. Time would be on their side because Hochul could not lawfully enforce the CCIA during discovery and trial, however long that takes. Or the Second Circuit could lift the stay. That would benefit Hochul, as she would be free to enforce the CCIA while the District Court hears the Constitutional challenges to it. That would benefit Hochul and her Administration. They would likely prolong a final resolution of the case as the District Court had made known its antipathy toward the CCIA in lengthy Court opinions.
But, as Hochul’s appeal of the TRO order remains still to be acted on by the Second Circuit, the District Court that ordered a TRO against Hochul’s enforcement of the CCIA had recently ruled on Plaintiffs Motion for a Preliminary Injunction, filed on September 2022. The case is Antonyuk vs. Hochul, (Antonyuk II), 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 201944 (N.D.N.Y. November 7, 2022)
Contributing Ammoland writer John Crump wrote about this in his article posted on Ammoland, on November 7, 2022.
The District Court’s impetus for this new ruling on a Preliminary Injunction though might render the TRO moot.
Why did the District Court rule on the Preliminary Injunction before the Second Circuit ruled on the TRO?
This might be due to the actions of Hochul’s Government, itself.
In a caustic, strident, YouTube video, a new Acting Superintendent of State Police, Steven Nigrelli, replacing Kevin Bruen, threatened New York gun owners. The District Court wasn’t amused. In its comprehensive detailed opinion, the Court commented on Nigrelli’s outburst, saying this:
“. . . unlike Superintendent Kevin Bruen in Antonyuk I, here Defendant Nigrelli has been shown to have threatened a ‘zero tolerance’ enforcement of the CCIA. On August 31, 2022, Defendant Nigrelli stated as follows in a YouTube video:
‘We ensured that the lawful, responsible gun owners have the tools now to remain compliant with the law. For those who choose to violate this law . . . Governor, it’s an easy message. I don’t have to spell it out more than this. We’ll have zero tolerance. If you violate this law, you will be arrested. Simple as that. Because the New York State Troopers are standing ready to do our job to ensure . . . all laws are enforced.’
Of course, here, Defendant Nigrelli did not limit his YouTube message to Plaintiffs. . . . However, five of the six Plaintiffs were members of the specific group of citizens (concealed-carry license holders) in New York State that was orally and visibly threatened by Defendant Nigrelli on August 31, 2022. The fact that the oral and visible threat occurred by video rather than in person fails to serve as a material distinction here, in the Court’s view. For example, the fact that Nigrelli did not personally know yet of Defendant Mann’s existence (as he does now) appears of little consequence, given that Defendant Nigrelli’s 3,500 State Troopers were ‘standing ready’ to investigate and discover the violators. Indeed, the fact that the threat occurred by video actually increases the potency of it, due to its ability to be replayed. And Plaintiff Mann heard the message. It is difficult to see how one could fairly say that Defendant Nigrelli did not expressly direct his threat, in part, at Plaintiff Mann. In this way, Defendant Nigrelli’s statement on August 31, 2022, was more than (as the State Defendants argue) a ‘generalized statement made . . . in the press.’ Rather, his statement specifically referenced arrest and was made in a YouTube video aimed specifically at license holders such as Plaintiff Mann who were considering violating Sections 4 or 5 of the CCIA. As a result, the Court finds that Defendant Nigrelli has been charged with, and/or has assumed, the specific duty to enforce the CCIA.
Finally, the Court finds that these threats of arrest and prosecution, or even mere citation and/or seizure of his handgun, are enough to show that Plaintiff Mann faces a credible threat of enforcement of Section 4 of the CCIA, which is fairly traceable to Defendants Hilton, Oakes and Nigrelli [Court documents and Case Citations omitted].”
The Court opined that the Government’s message is demonstrative of the Plaintiffs’ concern they would be arrested for carrying a handgun in public—this notwithstanding the fact the Plaintiffs currently hold valid New York handgun carry licenses.
The CCIA severely restricts where holders of New York handgun licenses can carry licenses.
The Court’s granting of the Plaintiffs’ Preliminary Injunction in substantial part, introduces a new wrinkle in what has grown into a complicated legal matter, and all due to Kathy Hochul’s stubborn refusal to comply with U.S. Supreme Court rulings, along with her contemptuous attitude toward law-abiding American citizens who simply wish to exercise their fundamental, natural law right of armed self-defense.
Hochul’s team will file a response to the District Court’s November 7, 2022, Preliminary Injunction ruling. No doubt the AG’s Office is working on it at this moment, and it will submit it to the Second Circuit in a few days.
Hochul may ask the Second Circuit to suspend a ruling on the TRO in view of the District Court’s new ruling on the Plaintiffs’ preliminary injunction.
The Second Circuit may itself, on its own motion, sua sponte, suspend a ruling on the TRO or, render the TRO matter given the District Court’s ruling on the Preliminary Injunction.
The District Court ruling may have the effect of a final order on the merits. If so, this means the Second Circuit itself might render a final decision on at least a portion of the substantive merits of the issues on the constitutionality of the CCIA.
If the Second Circuit affirms the Preliminary Injunction and, further, treats it like a Permanent Injunction that will render those portions of the CCIA affected by the Injunction permanently unenforceable.
At that point, the administration’s options will be limited. Hochul’s Government could appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, but she likely wouldn’t do that. Of course, the High Court need not hear the case. The problem is that it probably would, and that would be dangerous for both New York and all Anti-Second Amendment jurisdictions.
The Court could grant review and use the opportunity to strike down the entirety of the New York handgun licensing structure. The Court would likely be in the frame of mind to do so, given Hochul’s contemptuous attitude toward the Court.
The Hochul Administration could also ask for an en banc Second Circuit Court hearing. That means the entire Second Circuit would be empaneled to hear the case. Hochul would prefer that option, as the safest strategy. But the Second Circuit need not grant her a hearing of the full Bench. As with the U.S. Supreme Court, an appellant cannot demand a hearing of the full Bench, as a matter of right.
There are more wrinkles in this Post-Bruen morass than on a Shar Pei.
We’ll just have to wait and see how this all plays out.
The natural law right of armed self-defense is coming to an ultimate showdown. At present that showdown is being fought in the Courts. Hopefully, it will not have to be fought in the streets. It need not come to that. Let us all hope it doesn’t.
Copyright © 2022 Roger J. Katz (Towne Criour), Stephen L. D’Andrilli (Publius) All Rights Reserved.