New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was sued by gun advocacy groups who claim new state laws regulating the sale and possession of firearms and ammunition are unconstitutional.
Organizations led by the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association are seeking to enjoin the law to “vindicate the right of the people of the state of New York to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” according to a complaint filed yesterday in federal court in Buffalo.
The lawsuit came as a federal appeals court in Virginia upheld Maryland’s limits on seeking a permit to carry a gun outside the home. That law, requiring a person who wants such a permit to show “good and substantial reason,” was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond. The court held that the statute was a constitutional public-safety measure.
In Washington, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he is preparing federal gun legislation for next month. The measure will be a narrower version of laws meant to curb gun violence approved by the Judiciary Committee. The bill will include federal aid for school safety, stronger penalties for gun trafficking and broader background checks for purchases, Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said in a statement yesterday.
Following the school massacre last year in Newtown, Connecticut, New York’s Cuomo pushed his state’s law through the legislature in weeks, making it the first state to respond to the killings. The measure tightens restrictions on sales and closes gaps in a 2000 ban on assault weapons.
“The act creates new offenses with criminal penalties for previously lawful activities involving the acquisition and possession of rifles, handguns, shotguns, ammunition magazines and ammunition,” the groups challenging the law said in the complaint. “The act severely and adversely affects plaintiffs and millions of other law-abiding gun owners in New York.”
It also bans the sale of ammunition magazines that hold more than seven rounds. A drawback to the law is that “there is no such thing as a seven-bullet magazine,” Cuomo said at a March 20 press briefing in Albany. That left him with no option other than to roll back the law and again allow the sale of 10- round holders while keeping it illegal for them to contain more than seven at a time.
In upholding Maryland’s law, the three-judge panel in Richmond reversed a lower-court judge, who had ruled the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms extends beyond the home and that the state’s standard for granting a carry permit infringed on that right.
“The state has demonstrated that the good-and-substantial- reason requirement is reasonably adapted to Maryland’s significant interests in protecting public safety and preventing crime,” U.S. Circuit Judge Robert King wrote in a 33-page opinion.
Under Maryland’s law, residents who wish to carry a gun outside their home must demonstrate they need it for personal protection because of a specific threat or their business activities or because they belong to a high-risk profession.
Law enforcement and military personnel on active assignment and people traveling to shooting ranges are exempt from the requirement.
“It’s not much of a right if the police can demand that you satisfy their vision of a ‘good and substantial reason’ to exercise it,” Alan Gura, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the case, said in a statement released by the Second Amendment Foundation. “The next step is for courts to tell Americans that they need a ’good and substantial reason’ to speak, worship or be secure from unreasonable searches.”
Gura said the decision will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court if it isn’t reversed.
New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, said yesterday that the state will suspend the April 15 effective date of New York’s law banning the sale of magazines with more than seven bullets to give lawmakers time to change the statute.
The changes are happening as Cuomo, 55, has been attacked by pro-gun groups who claim the law was rushed through. In January, Cuomo, a Democrat, waived a requirement for a three-day waiting period between a bill’s introduction and vote.
The legislature approved the measure within 24 hours of its introduction. Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for Cuomo, didn’t respond to an e-mail yesterday seeking comment on the lawsuit.
The cases are New York State Rifle and Pistol Association Inc. v. Cuomo, 1:13-cv-00291, U.S. District Court, Western District of New York (Buffalo); The Maryland case is Woollard v. Gallagher, 12-1437, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (Richmond, Virginia).
To contact the reporters on this story: Chris Dolmetsch in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan at firstname.lastname@example.org; Tom Schoenberg in Washington at email@example.com; Andrew Zajac in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at email@example.com.