Opinion | New York’s ‘Massive Resistance’ to the Supreme Court on Guns
When the Supreme Court ruled in 1954 that segregated schools were illegal, many politicians in the South refused to obey. In Virginia opponents of the Court’s decision proudly called this “massive resistance,” and a decade of social strife followed. These days the massive resistance is on the political left, as exemplified by New York state’s new gun law that defies the Supreme Court’s late June ruling solidifying individual gun rights.
Police were still hunting Monday evening for the shooter at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Ill., who killed at least six spectators as this was being written. The shooter reportedly used a rifle from a rooftop, which betrays premeditated malevolence. The shooting underscores the need to keep guns away from the mentally disturbed or those who are a danger to the community. The recent bill passed by Congress is a good-faith effort to do that, and we supported it. But that doesn’t justify the refusal by politicians to respect the right of the law-abiding to bear arms for self-defense as interpreted by the Supreme Court.
The New York Legislature appears to have paid little heed to the High Court’s ruling that overturned its gun-licensing regime in New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn. v. Bruen. Prodded by Gov.
the state Senate (43-20) and Assembly (91-51) voted last week to pass a new gun law that ignores Justice
Gov. Hochul boasted shortly after the ruling came down that the state would do this, having had barely enough time to read it, much less digest its legal implications. This will probably turn out to be a legal mistake, since challengers to the new law will cite her comments as a sign that the state made no attempt to follow the Court’s commands.
The High Court ruled in Bruen that the right to bear arms extends outside the home for self-defense. The new law seeks to vitiate this right by exploiting a passage in the opinion that allows gun restrictions in “sensitive places,” such as schools and government buildings.
Bruen doesn’t define sensitive places with much specificity. But the majority’s 6-3 opinion warns that “expanding the category of ‘sensitive places’ simply to all places of public congregation that are not isolated from law enforcement defines the category of ‘sensitive places’ far too broadly” and would “eviscerate the general right to publicly carry arms for self-defense.”
The new New York statute ignores this clear direction. It defines sensitive places to include airports, bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, courthouses, day-care facilities, playgrounds, parks, zoos, schools, entertainment venues, government buildings, houses of worship, libraries, public demonstrations and rallies, public transportation including subways and buses, and even Times Square.
The law also deems “no carry” as the default on private property unless declared permissible by the owners. Private property owners who allow concealed carry will have to publicly display this in signs, which may have free-speech implications.
All of this goes a long way to defining most of New York City as off-limits to concealed carry. Subways are increasingly dangerous because of illegal guns and lax law enforcement, but passengers won’t be able to protect themselves with a legal gun. Walking with a gun on the streets will be illegal if you wander into Central Park or public squares where civilians are assaulted too often.
The law also defines what it means to have the “good moral character” required to obtain a gun permit. A New York Senate press release says this means having the “essential character, temperament, and judgment necessary to be entrusted with a weapon.” This will presumably be in the eye of the bureaucratic beholder. It gives too much discretion to the government to deny a fundamental right, which is one reason the Court struck down the state’s licensing regime in Bruen.
All of this looks like a willful attempt to defy a Supreme Court ruling. The same progressives appalled when Southern politicians stood in the schoolhouse door to block racial integration are now standing in the licensing office to prevent New Yorkers from exercising their constitutional right to bear arms. That many of these New Yorkers will be minorities seeking to protect themselves in high-crime neighborhoods doesn’t seem to matter to the massive resisters who run New York.
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