New York

A federal judge struck down recent provisions in New York City’s gun restrictions as unconstitutional

On Tuesday, a federal judge overturned specific sections of New York City’s firearm regulations, branding them unconstitutional. The judge, John P. Cronan of Manhattan, pointed out in his decision the excessive leeway granted to city authorities in rejecting firearm permits for individuals perceived as “not of good moral character.”

Judge Cronan highlighted that the city’s administrative code’s broad discretion violates the Constitution’s 2nd and 14th amendments. He specifically focused on parts allowing officials to assess an applicant’s “good moral character” and the legitimacy of denying gun permits.

This verdict aligns New York City with other cities where gun laws have been invalidated following a pivotal Supreme Court ruling in June 2022. This ruling, known as the Bruen decision, affirmed the right to publicly carry firearms for self-defense, marking the Supreme Court’s first significant ruling on guns in over a decade. It has since led to the nullification of various gun laws and prompted the Supreme Court to review the extent of judicial authority in overturning firearm restrictions.

Judge Cronan has temporarily suspended his ruling’s impact until midnight Thursday, providing time for an appeal.

The decision emerged from a lawsuit by Joseph Srour, whose rifle and shotgun possession permit was denied. Officials cited past arrests, a history of driving offenses, and alleged inaccuracies in his applications.

Cronan clarified that his ruling does not challenge the power of states or cities to enact constitutionally sound firearm regulations. Instead, he criticized the city’s regulations for granting officials excessive discretion in denying constitutional firearm rights. He added that the city did not demonstrate such discretion as historically justified in firearm regulation.

He remarked that the denial notices Srour received lacked clarity on the legal reasons for rejecting his firearm possession applications. While Cronan deemed the regulations unconstitutional, he has not yet passed judgment on their revised versions.

New York City has not yet commented on the ruling.

Amy Bellantoni, Srour’s lawyer, lauded the decision as a significant victory for self-defense rights in New York City, attributing it to “rock solid constitutional analysis.”

In opposition, city lawyers argued in February that Srour’s application was justifiably rejected due to his non-disclosure of past arrests, including one for attempted murder, and a severe record of traffic violations, indicating non-compliance with licensing norms.

Cronan’s decision, referencing the Supreme Court’s Bruen ruling, criticized the vague “good cause” requirement in New York City’s regulations, likening it to the “proper cause” term invalidated by the Supreme Court.

He noted the subjective nature of terms like “good moral character” and “good cause,” arguing that such broad discretion is incompatible with the Bruen decision.

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