Law & the Courts

New York Public Defenders Urge Supreme Court to Invalidate State’s Concealed-Carry Ban

(Zolnierek/Getty Images)

A coalition of New York public-defender groups filed an amicus brief Thursday urging the Supreme Court to invalidate the state’s concealed-carry ban. Among the attorney offices and legal-aid groups who signed the plea were the Black Attorneys of Legal Aid, the Bronx Defenders, and Brooklyn Defender Services.

Within the table of contents in the document, the argument for the amicus brief reads, “New York’s licensing regime criminalizes the exercise of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.”

Listing anecdotal examples in which New York residents or people visiting New York from out of state were penalized for gun possession, in many cases while using their firearm for self-defense, the statement continues, “Our clients are prosecuted for exercising their Second Amendment rights.”

The public defenders’ amicus brief is a demonstration of support for the petitioners Robert Nash and Brandon Koch in NY State Rifle & Pistol Assoc. v. Corlett, a major Second Amendment case that the Supreme Court announced in April it will add to its docket for fall review.

The original complaint, filed by Nash and Koch, pertained to a New York law that prohibits the concealed carry of handguns in public. The complainants sued after New York officials rejected their gun applications, claiming they failed to meet the standards of “special need” and “proper cause” to hold firearms under state law.

New York typically reserves concealed-carry permits for security professionals and others who can plausibly claim they could be endangered without them in their occupations. New Yorkers can store handguns in their homes but are barred from traveling with them or carrying them in public.

In an order, the justices said they will determine whether “the State’s denial of petitioners’ applications for concealed-carry licenses for self-defense violated the Second Amendment.”

The Black Attorneys of Legal Aid caucus, one of the top signers on the brief, represents more than 100 African-American legal-aid lawyers, most of whom are criminal defense attorneys, according to the brief. “Aside from providing quality legal representation to thousands of indigent persons throughout New York City, BALA advocates for racial justice within the legal sphere,” the organization’s description notes.

The Bronx Defenders and Brooklyn Defender Services, the other two major signatories, provide legal services to thousands of people in their respective boroughs each year. The Bronx and Brooklyn suffer from some of the highest crimes rates in the city, according to data from the Police Department of the City of New York.

The show of approval from the public-defender groups for the right to concealed carry in New York comes as the state experiences skyrocketing crime, so much that policing became a pivotal issue in the Democratic New York mayoral race. Thousands of residents evacuated the state during the pandemic for less restrictive business and living environments such as Florida, leaving a vacuum for criminal activity.

Last month, Democratic New York governor Andrew Cuomo declared a “disaster emergency” on gun violence in the state, issuing an executive order providing funding and resources to address the problem. Rather than recommending targeted increased police presence, the governor pointed to the importance of passing gun control to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people and restoring community trust through police reform.

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