Mayor Adams and City Council poised to use ‘sensitive places’ designation to limit firearms in NYC

Mayor Adams and the City Council zeroed in Thursday on ways to expand bans on guns in “sensitive places” across the city as a way to push back against the U.S. Supreme Court’s earthshattering decision to strike down a long-standing state restriction on concealed firearms.

Adams, who spoke in the City Hall rotunda hours after the ruling that will almost certainly make it easier to carry concealed firearms in New York, vowed he and his administration “would do everything in our power, using every resource available to ensure that gains we’ve seen during this administration are not undone.”

“There is no place in the nation that is going to be impacted based on this decision more than New York City,” he said. “There is no place in the nation that this decision affects as much as New Yorkers. And we are prepared to set the example that will lead the country on how we will fight back on this decision.”

Exactly how the city will set that example remains unclear, but Adams and a top city lawyer suggested there’s a potential loophole in one nuanced portion of the top court ruling.

The court’s 135-page decision, which rescinded a law that limited concealed carry handgun licenses to New Yorkers with specific defense needs, focused in part on how the term “sensitive places” is defined as it relates to places where firearm possession can be restricted.

Some sensitive places — such as courts, polling places and legislative assemblies — have since long prohibited firearms on their premises, and will likely still be allowed to restrict concealed guns.

In its decision, the court ruled that New York State defined the “sensitive places” term too broadly. But the court also signaled it would not attempt to define the term itself — and that could leave the door open to new restrictions, according to Brendan McGuire, Adams’ chief counsel, who said the city will review “every option available,” including an examination of how to expand sensitive locations “in a way that will most protect” city residents.

Map the City Council is basing it's "sensitive places" bill on.

City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams (D-Queens) is considering a similar strategy.

During a press conference at City Hall Thursday afternoon, the speaker said the Council plans to pass a measure calling on the state Legislature to add a range of locations to New York’s “sensitive places” list, including hospitals, parks, various government buildings, places of worship, schools, cemeteries, homeless shelters, mass transit systems and establishments where alcohol is served.

In addition, the measure would urge the Legislature to carve out 1,000 feet “buffer zones” around each “sensitive place,” using the city’s population density as an impetus, the speaker said.

The Supreme Court explicitly stated in its ruling that New York can’t deem an entire borough “a sensitive place simply because it is crowded,” but Speaker Adams suggested that a laundry list of new additions to the list, along with buffer zones, could effectively blanket the five boroughs with gun-free zones.

“That’s the hope. That’s the thought,” she told reporters.

Gov. Hochul said after Thursday’s ruling that she plans to call the state Legislature back into session to adopt new gun restrictions next month, and an expansion of “sensitive places” is likely to be front and center in light of the calls from the Council and the mayor.

Councilmember Shaun Abreu (D-Manhattan), who plans to introduce the measure teased by the speaker, said the consequences would be dire if the state doesn’t act.

“The Supreme Court may not be pulling the trigger, but it just put a gun in the hands of the next mass shooter,” he said.

NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell also noted that the NYPD is now reevaluating its policies and procedures around gun licensing, but that it’s still too early to reach a final determination on how to proceed.

A police official said there are currently no plans to stop taking permit applications, NYPD Commissioner of Counter Terrorism John Miller said it’s still unclear how the decision will affect demand for permits.

“There are plenty of things to consider,” he said.

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