Two Federal Judges Say New York’s Presumptive Prohibition of Guns on Private Property Is Unconstitutional
After the Supreme Court upheld the right to bear arms last June, New York legislators perversely responded by imposing sweeping new restrictions on public possession of guns, banning them from a long list of locations. The broadest of those categories was “private property,” including businesses as well as residences, where carry permit holders were forbidden to bring guns unless the owner had posted “clear and conspicuous signage” allowing them or had “otherwise given express consent.”
Yesterday a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against enforcement of that provision, which had already been blocked by another judge. Both judges said New York had failed to show that the private property rule was “consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.” That is the constitutional test prescribed by the Supreme Court’s June 23 ruling in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, which upheld the right to carry guns in public for self-defense and overturned New York’s requirement that residents show “proper cause” to exercise that right.
New York’s catch-all “private property” exclusion, which New Jersey legislators have copied, is one of many restrictions that U.S. District Judge Glenn T. Suddaby deemed unconstitutional in Antonyuk v. Hochul. It is the focus of the decision that U.S. District Judge John L. Sinatra Jr. issued yesterday in Christian v. Nigrelli, and it vividly illustrates how determined anti-gun legislators are to defy Bruen.
The plaintiffs in Christian include the Firearms Policy Coalition and the Second Amendment Foundation. The lead plaintiff is Brett Christian, an Erie County resident who has a carry permit but cannot make much use of it because New York has made it a felony for him to possess a handgun in many places he routinely visits. Before that law was enacted, Sinatra notes, Christian “would typically bring [his] firearm with [him] on private property open to the public, including weekly visits to gas stations and monthly visits to hardware stores.” That is no longer allowed.
When Christian is “driving or running errands,” he is “‘unable to take any
bathroom breaks,’ pick up food, or purchase gas while carrying his firearm.” He
has to “disable and store” his handgun before driving or walking into a parking lot,
which means that he sometimes must “stop carrying for self-defense” before he
“can get physically close enough to see if any ‘clear and conspicuous signage’ exists.” Because New York’s law requires Christian to “constantly disarm” while engaged in quotidian activities, he is “left without the ability to defend” himself and is “suffering diminished personal safety on a frequent and ongoing basis.”
That situation is not merely inconvenient. It makes a mockery of the right that the Supreme Court upheld in Bruen. While
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