Recent firearms licensing restrictions in NYC ruled unconstitutional by judge

 October 25, 2023

Tuesday, a federal judge ruled that recent provisions of New York City's gun restrictions are unconstitutional, stating that officials have too much discretion to deny gun permits to individuals deemed "not of good moral character."

Judge John P. Cronan of Manhattan stated in a written ruling that the “magnitude of discretion” afforded to city gun licensing officials under certain provisions of the city's administrative code violated the Second and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution, as ABC News reported.

The judge specifically cited provisions empowering officials to evaluate an applicant's "good moral character" and whether “good cause exists for the denial” of gun permits.

Case Details

A landmark U.S. Supreme Court judgment in June 2022 found that Americans have the right to carry firearms in public for self-defense. The ruling added the city to the growing number of municipalities nationwide whose gun restrictions have been struck down. The Bruen decision, which invalidated a New York gun law, was the Supreme Court's first significant gun decision in over a decade.

It has caused lower courts to invalidate numerous gun laws and prompted the Supreme Court to agree earlier this year to determine whether judges are going too far in invalidating firearm restrictions. The judge said he would delay the implementation of his ruling until Thursday at midnight so the city could file an appeal.

Joseph Srour filed the lawsuit last year after he was denied a permit to possess rifles and shotguns in his residence on the basis of prior arrests, a poor driving record, and alleged false statements on application forms.

Cronan wrote that the case was  “not about the ability of a state or municipality to impose appropriate and constitutionally valid regulations governing the issuance of firearm licenses and permits."

“Rather,” he said, “the provisions fail to pass constitutional muster because of the magnitude of discretion afforded to city officials in denying an individual their constitutional right to keep and bear firearms," and because the city failed to demonstrate that unfettered discretion is rooted in the nation's historical tradition of firearm regulation.

He stated that Srour's notices from the New York Police Department's gun licensing division "are not models of clarity in explaining the precise legal grounds for denying his applications to possess firearms."

New Changes

Since then, the regulations that Cronan deemed unconstitutional have been revised, and the judge has stated that he has not yet rendered a decision on the language of the new provisions. The city did not respond to requests for comment immediately.

Amy Bellantoni, Srour's lawyer, stated in a text message that Cronan's decision was based on "rock solid constitutional analysis." She described it as “a major win for self protection in New York City.”

In February, city attorneys asked Cronan to deny Srour's gun permit application because he "lacked candor" by omitting two prior arrests and prosecutions, including one for attempted murder, and a "egregious history of moving violations demonstrating an inability to comply with licensing requirements.”

Cronan cited the Supreme Court's Bruen decision from last year in his decision, stating that the vaguely worded "good cause" provision in New York City's rules was "much like" to the "proper cause" language that the Supreme Court invalidated in its Bruen decision.

According to him, the provisions he struck down were written so that  “a licensing official would make a judgment call about the character, temperament and judgment of each applicant without an objective process.”

“Without doubt, the very notions of ‘good moral character’ and ‘good cause’ are inherently exceedingly broad and discretionary. Someone may be deemed to have good moral character by one person, yet a very morally flawed character by another. Such unfettered discretion is hard, if not impossible, to reconcile with Bruen,” Cronan wrote.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
© 2015 - 2024 Conservative Institute. All Rights Reserved.