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Federal appeals court strikes down parts of NY gun law

Federal appeals court strikes down parts of NY gun law

A federal appeals court on Friday struck down parts of a New York gun control law that has been on the frontlines of Second Amendment legal battles following the Supreme Court’s landmark gun-rights expansion last year.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’s ruling blocks three provisions while upholding others previously found unconstitutional by lower courts.

The panel on Friday invalidated a requirement that concealed carry permit applicants disclose their social media account.

Their decision also strikes down a provision that bans gun possession by default on private property, and it further prevents the state from enforcing a gun possession ban at places of worship against a group of plaintiffs.

Although anticipated for months, the ruling is unlikely to be the last word in the fight over New York’s law. The dispute could ultimately reach the Supreme Court.

“Our affirmance or vacatur of the district courts’ injunctions does not determine the ultimate constitutionality of the challenged CCIA provisions, which await further briefing, discovery, and historical analysis, both in these cases as they proceed and perhaps in other cases,” the 2nd Circuit wrote in its ruling.

New York Democrats passed the law after the Supreme Court last year invalidated the state’s concealed carry licensing regime.

The decision in NYSRPA v. Bruen marked the biggest expansion of Second Amendment rights in a decade, with the conservative majority ruling that gun control laws must be consistent with the nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.

Aimed at complying with the new test, New York’s Concealed Carry Improvement Act (CCIA) bans firearms in 20 “sensitive places” that include some of New York City’s most famed spots, such as Times Square, Yankee Stadium and the subway system. It also creates new requirements for receiving a carry permit.

Several individuals, a church and two advocacy groups filed lawsuits challenging portions of the CCIA, leading trial courts to issue a scattered set of rulings that struck down various provisions.

The 2nd Circuit put those rulings on hold as it consolidated appeals in four cases.

The panel comprised Dennis Jacobs, a George H.W. Bush appointee; Gerard Lynch, an Obama appointee; and Eunice Lee, a Biden appointee.

The appeals court’s 261-page ruling narrows the list of blocked provisions, finding that some of the lower judges didn’t have jurisdiction or improperly found portions to be unconstitutional.

Friday’s decision sets aside rulings that had struck down gun possession bans at many locations deemed “sensitive places,” including behavior health centers, public parks, zoos, theaters, conference centers and places licensed for on-premise alcohol consumption.

The 2nd Circuit also said a lower court was wrong to invalidate the CCIA’s requirement that concealed carry permit applicants show “good moral character.”

“The CCIA’s definition of ‘character’ is a proxy for dangerousness: whether the applicant, if licensed to carry a firearm, is likely to pose a danger to himself, others, or public safety,” the three-judge panel said in its ruling.

“And there is widespread consensus (notwithstanding some disputes at the margins) that restrictions which prevent dangerous individuals from wielding lethal weapons are part of the nation’s tradition of firearm regulation,” they continued. “We therefore cannot conclude that every denial on grounds of ‘good moral character’ as defined by New York will violate the Second Amendment, though various avenues lie open for as-applied challenges.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) in a statement hailed those portions of the ruling.

“Today’s decision to permit the state to enforce critical provisions of the Concealed Carry Improvement Act as the court process moves forward will help keep New Yorkers safe,” James said. “This commonsense law was enacted to keep guns out of dangerous hands and away from schools, hospitals, parks, public transportation, and other sensitive locations. My office will continue to defend New York’s gun laws and use every tool to protect New Yorkers from senseless gun violence.”

The trio of judges did, however, find that New York’s law wasn’t entirely constitutional.

In particular, the panel struck down a contested provision that requires concealed carry permit applicants to disclose their current and former social media accounts.

“The State points to no historical law conditioning lawful carriage of a firearm on disclosing one’s pseudonyms or, more generally, on informing the government about one’s history of speech,” the ruling read.

This story was updated at 11:48 a.m.

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