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Federal judge scales back New York's concealed carry law

Permit seekers would not longer have to disclose social media accounts, sit for interviews to determine moral character

TImes Union Oct. 6, 2022

ALBANY — A federal judge temporarily blocked significant portions of the state's recently passed concealed carry laws for firearms, which had been championed by Gov. Kathy Hochul and other Democrats as a necessary public safety measure and an effective rebuke to the U.S. Supreme Court's summer ruling invalidating New York's previous concealed carry requirements.

Instead, a temporary restraining order issued by U.S. District Judge Glenn T. Suddaby will suspend several controversial elements of the Concealed Carry Improvement Act, which gun rights groups have argued are an unconstitutional restriction on the right to carry for self-defense.

"Simply stated, instead of moving toward becoming a shall-issue jurisdiction, New York state has further entrenched itself as a shall-not-issue jurisdiction," Suddaby wrote in the 53-page order, referring to concealed carry permits. "And, by doing so, it has further reduced a first-class constitutional right to bear arms in public for self-defense ... into a mere request."

The order, issued Thursday and set to go into effect next week, would put a hold on certain components of the law related to who can get a permit for a gun and where they can then carry it concealed. Hochul and Attorney General Letitia James stated their intention to challenge the order.

It suspends the requirements that permit seekers need to disclose all their social media accounts for the previous three years as well as the identities of relatives including spouses who can serve as "character references." Also, permit seekers will not have to sit for in-person interviews with local officials in order to demonstrate their "good moral character."

In the order, Suddaby criticizes the way the law places the responsibility on the applicant to prove they are of good moral character, rather then obliging that state to demonstrate the opposite.

The standard, he writes, should be a "preponderance of evidence based on his or her conduct to not be of good moral character." He cites that the historical standard would mean the licensor would have to find that there is "more evidence that danger will occur than there is evidence that it will not occur."

The order also prunes back an element of the law that specified "sensitive locations" where permitted firearms owners are barred from carrying their weapons. It preserves for now the law’s prohibition on carrying firearms in local, federal and state government buildings; polling places; schools, colleges and universities; and public assemblies, based on historical examples. But it temporarily allows carry in places of entertainment or amusement; sites where alcoholic beverages are consumed; the specific location of Times Square; health care facilities; libraries, playgrounds, parks or zoos; summer camps; homeless or domestic shelters.

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