A slate of New York officials slammed a Supreme Court ruling Thursday that struck down the state’s law requiring “proper cause” to carry a handgun, with Gov. Kathy Hochul saying it was “a deeply disturbing day.”
The law mandated that those applying to carry a concealed handgun in New York provide a reason why they need the weapon, which officials then approve or deny. It is part of a larger array of New York gun restrictions highlighted as some of the toughest in the nation.
The petitioners in the case — two upstate New York residents, joined by the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association — sued when a county licensing official denied them the carry privileges they sought.
The case has been closely watched in New York, as it came on the heels of a mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket in May. An 18-year-old gunman opened fire in a Tops Friendly Markets store in a historically Black neighborhood, killing 10 and injuring three more in what authorities called a racially-motivated killing.
The shooting was quickly followed by another at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, which left 19 children and two adults dead.
Hochul swiftly denounced the ruling soon after its release, saying the Supreme Court “recklessly” struck down the law at “a moment of national reckoning on gun violence.”
“Just as we swiftly passed nation-leading gun reform legislation, I will continue to do everything in my power to keep New Yorkers safe from gun violence,” she said on Twitter Thursday.
Hochul had previously said she’d call back the New York Legislature, which finished its session earlier this month, in response to a ruling against New York in the Supreme Court case.
At a Thursday media briefing, she said her office is reviewing its options on when to call lawmakers back, and looking at further measures to be included in draft legislation, including potential restrictions on carrying guns in sensitive locations and additional training for those looking to obtain a concealed carry permit.
She noted that the ruling does not affect the overall requirement for a license for prospective handgun owners in New York — it only affects the "proper cause" element of the licensing process.
Other parts of that process, including fingerprinting, background checks and training in firearms, remain constitutional, according to a concurring opinion written by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts.
More on Supreme Court ruling: Supreme Court strikes down New York gun law, making it easier for Americans to carry handguns
What did the ruling say?
In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the law prevents "law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms," according to the opinion, written by Justice Clarence Thomas.
Justice Stephen Breyer referenced the recent mass shootings in his dissent, in which he was joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.
“Mass shootings are just one part of the problem,” Breyer wrote. “Easy access to firearms can also make many other aspects of American life more dangerous.”
The scope of the court's ruling, and how many similar gun regulations it will affect across the nation, remains unclear.
At least six other Democratic-led states – including California, Maryland and New Jersey – have licensing regimes similar to New York's. Together, those states represent about a quarter of the nation's population.
More on NY gun laws: Hochul pushes NY to ban residents under 21 from buying certain firearms
How did NY officials react?
In New York City, Mayor Eric Adams said the ruling would put New Yorkers “at further risk of gun violence.” The city has experienced a wave of gun violence in recent years, punctuated by high-profile events like an April shooting on a crowded subway train in Brooklyn, which left 10 people injured by gunfire.
“We have been preparing for this decision and will continue to do everything possible to work with our federal, state, and local partners to protect our city,” he said on Twitter Thursday.
While the “proper cause” law for carrying handguns has been on the books in New York for decades, the state passed a number of laws related to gun safety following the Buffalo shooting. Polls show the majority of New Yorkers have responded favorably to those changes.
Two thirds of New Yorkers think that crime is a serious problem in their community, while 76% think that New York’s recent law requiring a permit to purchase a semiautomatic rifle is good for the state, according to a Siena poll released on June 16.
Candidates in New York's upcoming gubernatorial primaries, both Democrat and Republican, sounded off about the ruling in media briefings and on social media, with New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams calling it “painful and dangerous news.”
The downstate Democrat urged Albany to take “clear and immediate action,” including investing $1 billion in fighting “daily street violence.”
Long Island Rep. Tom Suozzi, also a Democrat, said Hochul should call the Legislature back immediately to address the ruling.
“This is another hit to our public safety, and it’s going to cause more anxiety for the people of New York state,” he said.
He then pivoted to point to Hochul’s previous endorsement from the National Rifle Association during a past congressional race, and said she “has not made crime a priority in this state.”
Rob Astorino, the former Westchester County Executive running in the Republican primary for governor, praised the ruling, saying Thursday was "a good day for law-abiding New Yorkers, and a lousy day for gun-carrying criminals who have been terrifying defenseless citizens and communities."
Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Long Island Republican also running in the GOP primary, said the ruling was "historic" and "proper," especially for gun-carrying New Yorkers who follow the law and whose Second Amendment rights are "under constant attack."
Those on the far left continue to push "unconstitutional gun control measures" in New York, and this ruling rebukes that, Rep. Elise Stefanik, who represents Northern New York and is the House GOP Conference chair, said in a statement.
"This ruling comes at a crucial time," she said. "Now, law-abiding gun owners in New York state and across the nation can again exercise their Constitutional right to concealed carry to protect themselves and their families."
At the federal level, Congress is considering a bipartisan gun legislation package that would enhance background checks for younger buyers and direct funding to help states implement red flag laws, which allow authorities to bar certain individuals from holding guns if they’re deemed a danger to themselves or others.
“Instead of working to protect our communities, this court has made it even easier for potentially dangerous people to carry concealed handguns in public spaces,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, in a Thursday statement. “It’s time we did what it takes to stop the rise of gun violence. The lives of our friends, our law enforcement officers, and our children are at stake.”
The U.S. Senate passed the legislation late Thursday in a 65-33 vote, with the House passing it Friday, 234-193. The legislation now goes to President Joe Biden's desk.
USA Today reporters Candy Woodall and John Fritze contributed to this report.
Sarah Taddeo is the New York State Team Editor for the USA Today Network. Got a story tip or comment? Contact Sarah at STADDEO@Gannett.com or on Twitter @Sjtaddeo. This coverage is only possible with support from our readers. Please consider becoming a digital subscriber.
This article originally appeared on New York State Team: NY officials blast Supreme Court ruling striking down state handgun law