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Federal judge declares major parts of sweeping New York gun control law unconstitutional

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ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images

A federal judge in New York has struck down major parts of the state's sweeping gun control law as unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Glenn Suddaby on Thursday ruled that new requirements for background checks for gun permits — including a controversial provision requiring applicants to disclose their social media history — cannot be enforced. Other restrictions on carrying firearms in so-called "sensitive locations" on public and private properties were also declared unconstitutional.

Suddaby delayed the implementation of his decision by three business days to give the state time to appeal, the Post-Standard reported.

The judge has issued a temporary restraining order that would block six provisions of the law, called the Concealed Carry Improvement Act. Four of those provisions are related to requirements to apply for or renew a license for concealed carry.

The first provision declared unconstitutional was a requirement that concealed carry license applicants provide evidence that demonstrates they have "good moral character." Suddaby said that the burden of proof lies on the state licensing agency to show that an applicant does not have "good moral character."

Suddaby's decision also said that the state cannot require applicants to meet in person with the licensing officer, disclose the names and contact information of all adults residing in their homes, or provide a list of all current and former social media accounts from the past three years, the Post-Standard reported.

The judge also said the law's definition of a "sensitive location" where guns are impermissible is unconstitutionally broad. De facto gun-free zones can only be enforced in government administrative buildings, polling places, public areas restricted to general access for special events through permits, or any public or private educational facilities, Suddaby wrote.

The ruling also clarified that while guns remain banned in houses of worship, individuals tasked with providing security are permitted to carry firearms within.

Suddaby had previously said parts of the law were unconstitutional but had permitted the law to go into effect last month when he found that gun rights groups who sued New York state lacked standing to do so.

Democratic lawmakers rushed to pass the Concealed Carry Improvement Act in July after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a century-old New York law requiring gun owners to show "proper cause" to carry a concealed weapon outside their homes. The high court said the law was unconstitutional in a rule that effectively ended "may issue" concealed carry license regimes, guaranteeing that states "shall issue" concealed carry licenses to firearms owners who apply for them.

Democrats decried the decision, and Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) vowed to enact a new gun control law that would "go right up to the line" in terms of what is legally permissible.

The result was the strictest gun control law in the nation, one that banned firearms in all public parks with few exceptions, airports, houses of worship, government buildings, and all private property except where the owners have posted signage permitting lawful gun owners to carry their weapons.

Confusion over the poorly written and broad language of the law irritated hunters in upstate New York, where they were banned from carrying guns in bear country. The gun restrictions also led to sporting events and even Civil War reenactments being canceled for fear of participants committing a felony.

Gun rights groups celebrated Suddaby's decision.

“Anti-gunners like Kathy Hochul and Eric Adams lied and misrepresented the Second Amendment to the courts, putting New Yorkers at a great disadvantage in the midst of rising crime," said Erich Pratt, the senior vice president of Gun Owners of America. "We are grateful to Judge Suddaby for his quick action to restore the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Once the TRO goes into effect, GOA encourages New Yorkers to exercise their rights and to defend themselves and the ones they love.”

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