Federal Judge: NY Churches Get to Decide Whether to Allow Guns, Not the Government

Churches in New York may choose to ban guns, but the state can’t make that choice for them. That’s what a federal court just ruled.

New York enacted a law that bans residents from carrying guns in “sensitive” locations, including churches. The state passed this law after the U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down a law that required law-abiding New York residents to show “proper cause” to obtain permits to carry concealed.

Two church leaders sued the state over the “sensitive” locations ban, calling it an infringement on the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

U.S. District Judge John Sinatra agreed and last week temporarily blocked enforcement while the matter is pending. The judge cited New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen (2022), in which the high court ruled 6-3 that a state law requiring a “proper cause” to carry guns violated the Second Amendment.

Writing the majority opinion for the court, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote (PDF – 135 pages) that the right to bear arms is not “a second-class right.” New York’s “proper-cause requirement violates the Fourteenth Amendment in that it prevents law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to keep and bear arms.”

The District of Columbia tried the same tactic as New York after the Supreme Court struck down its three-decade ban on handguns in D.C. v. Heller (2008).

The court held that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right to self-defense. After the decision, the district set up hurdles for law-abiding residents seeking concealed-carry permits by requiring them to provide a “good reason.” A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down the law.

The panel reiterated the Supreme Court’s ruling in Heller (emphases added):

“We pause to draw together all the pieces of our analysis: At the Second Amendment’s core lies the right of responsible citizens to carry firearms for personal self-defense beyond the home, subject to longstanding restrictions. These traditional limits include, for instance, licensing requirements, but not bans on carrying in urban areas like D.C. or bans on carrying absent a special need for self-defense. In fact, the Amendment’s core at a minimum shields the typically situated citizen’s ability to carry common arms generally. The District’s good-reason law is necessarily a total ban on exercises of that constitutional right for most D.C. residents. That’s enough to sink this law under Heller I.

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