NY lawmakers bar guns in Times Square, ‘sensitive’ NYC places

ALBANY — The Crossroads of the World is among the “sensitive places” where firearms will be banned as lawmakers strengthen New York’s gun laws in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning a century-old concealed carry law.

New York’s Democrat-controlled Legislature began voting Friday on sweeping new restrictions that would bar carrying concealed weapons in a host of places including Times Square as well as subways, buses, bars, government buildings, houses of worship, schools, libraries, playgrounds, parks, homeless shelters and more.

Gov. Hochul called the Legislature back to Albany for an “extraordinary session” on Thursday to respond to last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down a longstanding law limiting who can carry a handgun in public.

The statute required gun owners demonstrate “proper cause” to obtain a concealed carry license, which the conservative majority on the court determined to be unconstitutional.

Under the new legislation released by the governor’s office around 3 a.m., guns will be barred from “sensitive places” such as Times Square and mass transit and firearms will not be allowed in private businesses unless owners explicitly grant permission to bring firearms on their property.

Businesses such as retail stores will have to post a sign indicating that armed patrons are welcome.

Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) applauded the expanded list of locations and the inclusion of Midtown’s tourist mecca as the bill was being debated in the Senate chamber.

“It’s crucial to the recovery of our local economy, including Broadway, that Times Square be a gun-free zone and that its 50 million annual visitors feel safe from the dangers of gun violence,” he said.

The bill will also overhaul the state’s permitting process by requiring applicants undergo 15 hours of in-person training at a firing range and an in-person interview. They must also provide their social media accounts as well as contact information for household members.

Applicants will have to show they have “the essential character, temperament and judgment necessary to be entrusted with a weapon and to use it only in a manner that does not endanger oneself and others,” according to the legislation.

Licenses will have to be renewed after three years and an appeals process will be set up under the law.

The bill also tweaks a recently passed law that barred sales of bulletproof vests but didn’t cover the type of armor worn by an 18-year-old man accused of killing 10 Black shoppers at a Buffalo supermarket in May.

The measure was approved by the Senate in a 43-20 party line vote.

Still, what was meant to be a one-day “extraordinary session” stretched into a typical Albany legislative marathon as the Assembly only began debating the measure around 3 p.m. and wrapped up around 8 p.m. after passing the bill 91-51.

“We’re in response mode with regards to the Supreme Court decision,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) told reporters at the Capitol. “As frustrating as it may be, Democrats feel like we’re doing the right thing to protect New Yorkers.”

Heastie said the gun bill, as well as a constitutional amendment protecting abortion and LGBTQ rights, would both pass the chamber before lawmakers head home for the July 4 holiday weekend.

Republicans pushed back against the new regulations, railing that the bill was released in the middle of the night and arguing it goes far beyond just addressing concealed carry permits.

“This is more unconstitutional than what was just struck down.” Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island) said during the floor debate.

State GOP party chairman Nick Langworthy slammed the Dem-led Legislature for tightening restrictions for legal gun owners.

“Only under the insanity of New York Democrats can you get out of jail free for possessing an illegal firearm, but be targeted by the government for being a law-abiding citizen exercising your constitutional rights,” he said.

Aaron Dorr, the executive director of the New York State Firearms Association, told the Associated Press that the measure is “the kind of bill that the Gestapo would be proud of” or “you’d see in Communist China.”

“This will never survive a court challenge,” he added.

Elizabeth Fine, Hochul’s chief counsel, said the Supreme Court ruling was clear in that it still leaves states in charge of “determining qualifications and who’s eligible to carry a weapon.”

“I don’t think that there’s any question but that the state has the authority and the responsibility to review applicants for licenses to make sure that they are not going to pose a danger to themselves or others if they are able to get a gun,” Fine said.

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