Hochul proposes ‘technical’ changes to concealed carry law
Updated: Feb. 03, 2023, 4:14 p.m
By Joshua Solomon | Times Union, Albany
Albany, N.Y. — Gov. Kathy Hochul is seeking a number of “technical” revisions to New York’s contested concealed carry laws, including allowing armed security guards at places of worship and providing clearer guidelines for retired law enforcement officers in good standing to possess a firearm in a “sensitive location.”
The proposals were included in Hochul’s executive budget, released Wednesday, and seek to update the state’s retooled concealed carry laws, enacted in July following a U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down the state’s longtime rules governing the possession and concealment of firearms in public.
The “Concealed Carry Improvement Act” is the target of numerous challenges in federal court by pro-Second Amendment groups. Some judges have already ruled it is an unconstitutional reach on people’s right to possess a firearm following the landmark decision in the Supreme Court case — New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Kevin Bruen, the then-superintendent of the State Police.
Hochul is seeking to clarify under the state’s new concealed carry laws that security guards at places of worship can possess a firearm, despite places like churches being deemed a “sensitive location” where guns are prohibited. Currently, security guards can possess a firearm while working their job, but it does not specify they can be hired to work at a place of worship.
The governor is also proposing to allow retired law enforcement who are in good standing and up to date on their firearms licenses to be exempt from the concealed carry laws. The statute allows retired police officers to carry a firearm in sensitive locations, but the new language expands on that definition, using a federal standard for law enforcement instead of the state’s regulation.
Following backlash from upstate Republicans, Hochul wants to clarify that firearms are also allowed at historical reenactments, on movie or theater production sets, as well as by people participating in military ceremonies, funerals and honor guards or in a biathlon competition. She also is recommending that the designation of a public park as a restricted “sensitive location” does not apply to the Adirondack or Catskill state parks, which encompass massive swaths of residential areas
Without any further legal questions, the proposals are likely to make their way through the budget process, a two-month period of negotiations among lawmakers and the governor as they seek to push their respective policies and financial initiatives into the state’s $227 billion proposed spending plan.
Democratic lawmakers signaled no concern with the proposal in the 24 hours following the release of Hochul’s policy bills. (Hochul had not noted in her State of the State address last month nor her budget remarks this week that any changes to the concealed carry laws would be offered.
Hochul’s proposed changes would help to “ensure that the state’s firearm regulations are implemented effectively and keep New Yorkers safe,” according to a budget memorandum explaining the need for the amendments.
U.S. District Judge Glenn T. Suddaby ruled in August on GOA-NY’s case against the concealed carry laws. He said that “while pursuing the laudable goal of public safety, and in an attempt to curb ever-increasing mass shootings, the New York state Legislature has generated an unconstitutional statute.” The ruling is being appealed by state attorney general’s office and Hochul and Attorney General Letitia James stand by the law as written.
In a separate court case, pastors with New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms contend the restrictions on firearms in places of worship are a violation of civil rights.
The group, which advocates on behalf of New York’s evangelical Christian community, are seeking to “exercise their constitutional and natural right to self-defense while also exercising their constitutional right to worship free of discrimination or prejudice,” according to a complaint filed in the case.
“It appears that the Hochul administration has tacitly acknowledged that the (Concealed Carry Improvement Act) goes too far and that a course correction is needed,” Rev. Jason J. McGuire, executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, said in a statement.
McGuire viewed it as Hochul seeking to “cut her losses ... on an issue that the courts have not looked kindly upon.”
“While it appears that those lawsuits have sent the governor a message, churches should not have had to take legal action to defend themselves from this unfair and unconstitutional law in the first place,” McGuire said.