Court blocks New York state from tightening gun purchase rules
A federal judge on Tuesday ruled New York’s gun restrictions unconstitutional, saying officials were given too much discretion to deny gun permits to people who “are not of good moral character,” according to a report. APNews.
Judge John P. Cronan said in his written ruling that the powers granted to gun permit officials under the city’s administrative code violated the 2nd and 14th Amendments to the Constitution.
In particular, the judge cited provisions that give officials the right to evaluate an applicant’s “moral character” and whether there are “compelling reasons for refusing” a weapons permit.
The decision joins New York among a growing number of municipalities across the country whose gun restrictions have been overturned following the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark June 2022 ruling that Americans have the right to carry firearms in public for self-defense.
The Supreme Court’s so-called Bruen decision, which struck down New York’s gun laws, was the Supreme Court’s first major decision in more than a decade. It led lower courts to strike down various gun laws, and earlier this year the Supreme Court agreed to rule on whether judges were going too far in striking down gun restrictions.
The judge said he was suspending his decision until midnight Thursday to give the city time to appeal.
The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed last year by Joseph Srur. He was denied a permit to store rifles and shotguns at his home, citing previous arrests, a poor driving record and allegedly making false statements on the application.
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Cronan wrote that this case is “not about the ability of a state or locality to enact appropriate and constitutionally sound regulations governing the issuance of firearms licenses and permits.”
“Rather,” he said, “the provisions fail constitutionality test because of the breadth of discretion afforded to city officials in denying an individual his constitutional right to keep and bear a firearm,” and because the city failed to prove that these discretionary powers are based on the nation’s historical tradition of firearms regulation.
He said the notices Srur received from the New York Police Department’s Gun Licensing Division “were not clear in explaining the precise legal basis for denying his application to own a firearm.”
The rules, which Cronan found unconstitutional, have since been changed, and the judge said he has not yet made a decision on the language of the new provisions. City officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Amy Bellantoni, Srour’s lawyer, said Cronan’s decision was based on “robust constitutional analysis.” She called it “a major victory for self-defense in New York.”
In written arguments submitted in February asking Cronan to rule against Srur, city lawyers said his application for a gun permit was denied because he was “not forthcoming” by not mentioning two previous arrests and prosecutions, including including attempted murder, as well as an “egregious history of traffic violations indicating an inability to comply with licensing requirements.”
In his decision, Cronan cited last year’s Supreme Court ruling in Bruen, saying the vaguely worded “good cause” provision in New York’s rules was “very similar” to the “good cause” language the Supreme Court invalidated in its decision last year.
He said the provisions he repealed are worded in such a way that “the licensing officer will judge the character, temperament and judgment of each applicant without an objective process.”
“Without a doubt, the very concepts of “good moral character” and “good cause” are inherently extremely discretionary. One person may believe that he has good moral character, while another may believe that he has very bad moral character. Such unfettered discretion is difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile with Bruen,” writes Cronan.