New York Attorney General Letitia James asked the Supreme Court on Tuesday to allow a new state law that places restrictions on carrying a concealed firearm to stay in effect while legal challenges play out.
The dispute is the first time the court has been asked on an emergency basis to consider a significant Second Amendment case since last summer’s ruling that expanded gun rights nationwide.
In that case, New York State Rifle v. Bruen, the court struck down New York’s prior concealed carry gun law. A 6-3 majority said the law prevented law-abiding citizens with “ordinary self-defense needs” from exercising their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms for self-defense.
Just days after the opinion, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, convened a special legislative session to pass a new law called the “Concealed Carry Improvement Act” on July 1. But the new law came under immediate attack as gun owners said that it was in direct “defiance” of the Supreme Court decision and continued to make it too difficult for ordinary citizens to obtain concealed carry permits.
Last fall, a district court blocked key provisions of the new law, related to requirements that an applicant demonstrate “good moral character,” provide a list of all former and current social media accounts from the past three years and “sensitive place” restrictions that include health care settings, churches and parks.
In December, however, a federal appeals court put that decision on hold and ordered expedited consideration of the matter with opening briefs due on January 9. Now, gun owners want the Supreme Court to step in.
In an emergency application filed on December 21, a lawyer for the gun owners asked the justices to step in and he defended the district court opinion. He said it was “carefully designed to limit New York’s enforcement of a sweeping gun control statute, enacted in retaliation against New York gun owners” for having prevailed in the Bruen case.
The lawyer, Stephen D. Stamboulieh, said that the 184 page opinion was “meticulously tailored” to “uphold the right of New Yorkers to keep and bear arms.”
The justices are not considering the merits of the case, only whether to lift the appeal court order pending appeal.
“Although it comes in an emergency -application posture, the request represents the first chance for the justices to weigh in on how lower courts are applying the Bruen decision and its new doctrinal framework for Second Amendment cases,” said Andrew Willinger of the Duke University School of Law.
In Tuesday’s filing, James said the district court’s opinion was “riddled with errors” and urged the justices to stay out of the dispute and let the appeals court ruling stand. She stressed that the appeals court had expedited consideration of the new law and that “further percolation of the relevant issues in the lower court is needed to inform” the Supreme Court’s review.