In response to a “reckless” Supreme Court decision, Governor Kathy Hochul approved a spate of new gun control laws, which take effect September 1, 2022.
Gov. Hochul called legislators into a special session, where they quickly approved all proposed gun control laws on a party-line vote. Leading Democrats expect opponents to challenge the gun control laws in court, but these leaders are confident the new laws will pass legal muster.
“I am proud to sign this landmark legislative package that will strengthen our gun laws and bolster restrictions on concealed carry weapons,” Gov. Hochul remarked. “I will continue to do everything in my power to combat the gun violence epidemic,” she added.
Gun Control Laws in NY: Carrying a Concealed Weapon
New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen is the Supreme Court case that got so many people in Albany worked up. In a 6-3 decision, the Supremes basically ruled that may-issue CCW laws, like the one in New York, are unconstitutional.
New York’s law stated that applicants could receive a CCW license if they met the minimum qualifications and they showed “proper cause” or a special need for such a license. In other words, officials could block CCW license applications if they had bad feelings about them. Under Bruen, any additional qualifications are now illegal.
Since local law enforcement officials lost their veto power, New York lawmakers did what was, in their opinion, the next best thing. They raised the bar as follows:
- Adding requirements like character references, a more extensive background check, and live fire testing to basic CCW qualifications,
- Requiring more extensive firearms training,
- Standardizing the CCW licensing process statewide, and
- Creating a “no-carry” default (it’s illegal to carry a concealed weapon on private property unless the property owner expressly authorizes such action).
New restrictions also include a broader “body armor” definition and pre-ammunition purchase background checks. Additionally, lawmakers changed the safe storage provision in homes and motor vehicles. More on that below.
Other provisions remain largely intact. State-issued licenses are usually only valid in upstate New York. Concealed weapons are only legal in the New York City metro area if a qualified local law enforcement official validates the license. A state license is valid in all contiguous and nearby states, except Vermont and New Hampshire.
On a related note, New York’s self-defense law includes a duty to retreat. If an individual could safely run away, that individual cannot use deadly force in self-defense.
Gun Control Provisions: Prohibited Places
Lawmakers also expanded the list of sensitive places where concealed weapons are illegal, whether the defendant has a license or not, and whether the owner posts a sign or not. Some sensitive places, like Times Square in New York City, are rather straightforward. Others are quite vague. Examples include:
- Airports: Most airports have secure areas, which cover most of the airport, and unsecured areas, where people pick up or drop off passengers. Frequently, the line between secure and unsecured areas is a little blurry, especially in municipal and private airports.
- Government Buildings: Frequently, tax offices, school district offices, satellite courthouses, and other such government buildings are in mini-malls. The new law is unclear as to where the sensitive place starts. Does it start at the government building itself, the frogurt stand next door, or the parking lot outside?
- Places of Worship: Not all churches have steeples, not all mosques have domes, and so on. In other words, just like not all government buildings look like government buildings, not all churches look like churches.
Additional new entries on the list of the prohibited places include schools, restaurants which serve alcohol, homeless and other shelters, libraries, and public demonstrations.
Illegal Weapons Possession
We mentioned the changes to safe storage provisions above. The motor vehicle requirement is probably the biggest change. Before, gun owners could basically throw their rifles in the back seat and take off down the road. Now, it’s illegal to have a rifle, shotgun, or other long gun in a motor vehicle unless the weapon is locked in a gun case or other container.
Legally, any contraband in the passenger area satisfies the proximity requirement in an illegal possession case. A car’s trunk and a pickup truck’s bed usually count as the passenger area.
If proximity were the only requirement in these cases, if five people are in a car with an illegal firearm, all five could be guilty of illegal weapons possession. However, proximity alone isn’t enough. Prosecutors must also establish knowledge and control. Furthermore, they must establish these elements beyond any reasonable doubt.
Let’s expand on the five-people-in-a-car example. If Tony is in the back seat and the illegal firearm is under the front passenger seat, the state would be hard-pressed to establish knowledge and control. That’s especially true if Tony didn’t know the other people in the car very well and someone was sitting in the front passenger seat.
If the evidence in a possession case is weak, a Rochester criminal defense lawyer may be able to get the case thrown out of court.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Attorney in Rochester re: Gun Control Laws
There’s a big difference between a criminal arrest and a criminal conviction. For a free consultation with an experienced Rochester criminal attorney, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. We routinely handle matters in Monroe County and nearby jurisdictions.