ALBANY — Gov. Kathy Hochul and legislative leaders could respond soon to a landmark court ruling by passing a new concealed-carry handgun law mandating training and making it illegal to possess a gun in certain “sensitive areas” — such as the subway.
Hochul and lawmakers were quickly reviewing legislative options after the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a New York law, on the books since 1913, that placed limits on carrying guns outside the home.
Draft legislation to replace the old law could be produced as quickly as Friday, a source said.
The legislation could include requiring background checks and mandatory training before a permit is obtained, the source said. A mental health evaluation is also an option. It could also ban the carrying of a weapon in “sensitive areas,” such as public transit, parks and schools.
Further, lawmakers could consider a system in which businesses and private property owners could set their own restrictions on guns, Hochul said.
The state's strict concealed-weapon law has been strongly supported by New Yorkers. A recent Siena College poll found 79% of those surveyed wanted the Supreme Court to uphold the state law, while just 15% wanted it struck down.
The Supreme Court said the old state law was too restrictive because it required applicants for a concealed-carry gun permit to show “proper cause” and “good moral character,” which were too vague and subjective.
A key part of the court’s decision — written in a concurring opinion by Justice Brett Kavanaugh — is that the New York law required some sort of special need to get a license, beyond self-defense.
But Kavanaugh also showed a path New York might pursue.
He wrote that New York and six other states “potentially affected by today’s decision may continue to require licenses for carrying handguns for self-defense so long as those states employ objective licensing requirements” used by 43 other states.
Analysts zeroed in on that passage, saying it provides New York lawmakers a path for action.
“New York can still have a permit law. But have to do it within the confines of the new … standard,” said Robert Spitzer, distinguished service professor emeritus at the State University at Cortland and author of “The Politics of Gun Control.”
“So something like requiring training and maybe expanding that training to include uniform live fire experience, setting a minimum number of classroom hours … could be done,” Spitzer said.
Referring to federal background check standards, Spitzer said New York lawmakers “might also see if there are other categories of prohibited persons not currently included under the federal Brady law standard that could be” barred from carrying a concealed weapon.
Hochul, in a news conference, said she expects the State Senate and Assembly to return to Albany for a special session – soon after Tuesday’s statewide primaries — to pass new legislation.
“In that special session, we will have worked out language that identifies restrictions on sensitive locations, which we will be defining,” the governor said. “I don’t think this is going to take that long.”
Asked whether she would consider subways such a “sensitive area” with restrictions, the governor said: “In my opinion, they are.”
Analysts said the ruling — especially Kavanaugh’s concurring opinion — made clear the Second Amendment isn’t absolute and that New York does have a path for enacting a new law.
“Critically, the court did leave way for states to omit the carrying in sensitive places,” Richard Aborn, president of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City. “State and local legislatures need to immediately start defining sensitive places, where guns will not be allowed.”
New York City Mayor Eric Adams said he feared the ruling would turn confrontations into shootouts and put cops in danger. He said the city will look to expand “sensitive areas” where even legally permitted guns aren’t allowed by private citizens.
The court ruling also arrived at a politically sensitive time in New York — the gubernatorial primary is Tuesday and early voting is underway.
Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), battling Hochul for the Democratic nomination, said the court ruling has been looming for some time and the governor should have a new proposed statute ready immediately. He said he’d support “anything to make concealed carry as strict as possible while meeting constitutional muster.” The third candicate, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, also called for the legislature to return quickly to respond to the ruling.
The four Republicans running for governor — Rep. Lee Zeldin, business owner Harry Wilson, former Trump administration aide Andrew Giuliani and former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino — have said they supported overturning the state law. On Thursday, Zeldin (R-Shirley) called the court’s decision a “historic, proper and necessary victory for law-abiding citizens.”