What Does Supreme Court Decision In Bruen Mean For New York Gun Convictions?
The recent Supreme Court decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen has major implications for gun laws in New York and gun convictions in the state. Here’s an in-depth look at what the Bruen decision means and how it is already impacting New York gun cases.
Overview of the Bruen Decision
In June 2022, the Supreme Court struck down New York’s longstanding law requiring a person to show “proper cause” to obtain a license to carry a concealed handgun in public.
- The 6-3 ruling said New York’s law violated the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
- Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the majority opinion, stating that the Second Amendment protects “an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.”
- The ruling struck down New York’s century-old law that required residents to show a specific need to get a license to carry a concealed handgun in public.
This was a major expansion of gun rights compared to the Supreme Court’s previous Second Amendment cases. It established that there is a constitutional right to carry guns in public for self-defense.
How Bruen Impacts NY Gun Laws
The Bruen decision immediately impacted New York’s gun laws and licensing requirements:
- New York can no longer require residents to show “proper cause” to obtain a concealed carry license.
- This means the state can’t limit concealed carry only to those who can show a special need for self-defense.
- New York responded by passing new laws setting restrictions on where concealed guns can be carried. For example, they are banned from sensitive locations like schools, government buildings, parks, etc.
However, the full impact of Bruen on New York gun laws is still playing out. Several lawsuits have already been filed challenging aspects of New York’s new concealed carry laws.
Challenging Past NY Gun Convictions
The Bruen ruling also opens the door for challenges to past New York gun convictions that were based on laws the Supreme Court now says are unconstitutional.
Defense attorneys have already begun filing motions to overturn convictions under the old “proper cause” licensing regime. For example:
- In September 2022, the NY Court of Appeals heard arguments in several cases challenging past convictions for illegal gun possession.
- The defendants argue that since the law they were convicted under is now unconstitutional, their convictions should be overturned.
- However, prosecutors argue that Bruen should not apply retroactively to past convictions.
This issue of retroactive application is still unsettled. The NY Court of Appeals will have to issue a ruling determining if Bruen applies retroactively in New York.
If Bruen is found to apply retroactively, it could lead to many past gun convictions being overturned in New York. Some estimate thousands of convictions could be impacted.
Specific NY Gun Laws Affected
Bruen did not strike down all gun laws, but it did significantly impact certain New York statutes used to prosecute illegal gun possession and use.
1. Public Carry Licensing
- Bruen struck down the “proper cause” standard New York used for issuing concealed carry licenses.
- This directly impacts the statute that made it a crime to possess a handgun without a license, NY Penal Law 400.00.
2. Possession of Firearms, Dangerous Weapons
- Bruen weakens the prosecution of charges for illegal possession of firearms under NY Penal Law 265.01-265.04.
- If the licensing law is unconstitutional, it makes it harder to establish illegal possession in some cases.
3. Criminal Possession of a Weapon
- This was one of the most commonly charged gun crimes under NY Penal Law 265.01-265.03.
- These statutes made it illegal to possess a gun without a valid license. Bruen now makes the licensing regime unconstitutional.
4. Possession of Firearms on School Grounds
- Bruen may impact NY Penal Law 265.01-a which barred gun possession on school grounds.
- The sensitive places restrictions New York passed after Bruen could still allow this, but it weakens the prohibition.
Changes to Defenses in Gun Cases
The Bruen decision also opens up new defenses for defendants facing gun possession charges:
- Second Amendment Defense – Defendants can now argue the charges violate their Second Amendment right to bear arms. Before Bruen, this constitutional defense rarely succeeded.
- Licensing Defense – Defendants may argue they should not be convicted for failing to have a license, since the licensing regime is now unconstitutional.
These new defenses, along with retroactivity challenges, will make it much harder for New York prosecutors to win gun conviction cases in the wake of Bruen.
Ongoing Legal Challenges and Uncertainty
The full impact of Bruen on New York gun laws is still evolving and faces ongoing legal challenges:
- New lawsuits are contesting provisions of the laws New York passed after Bruen, such as lists of sensitive locations where guns are banned.
- If courts strike down parts of New York’s new concealed carry laws, it will further hinder gun prosecutions in the state.
- It remains to be seen how far the courts will go in expanding gun rights and striking down New York’s regulations.
For now, the legal landscape around New York gun laws and prosecutions remains uncertain. Bruen has already opened the floodgates for legal challenges and made prosecuting gun crimes much harder for state prosecutors. The full impact will continue to develop as new cases make their way through the courts.