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IPFS News Link • Gun Rights

A Federal Judge Says New York's Ban on Guns in Church Is Unconstitutional


A federal judge yesterday issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against enforcement of New York's ban on firearms in "any place of worship or religious observation." U.S. District Judge John Sinatra Jr. concluded that the rule, part of a law that New York legislators passed after the Supreme Court overturned the state's "proper cause" requirement for concealed-carry permits, "impermissibly infring[es] on the right to keep and bear arms in public for self-defense."

Sinatra's decision in Hardaway v. Nigrelli comes two weeks after U.S. District Judge Glenn T. Suddaby issued a broader TRO against New York's law in Antonyuk v. Hochul. The two rulings do not bode well for politicians who try to defy the Supreme Court's June 23 ruling in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen by imposing new restrictions on the right to bear arms.

The lead plaintiffs in Hardaway are the Rev. Jimmie Hardaway Jr., pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Niagara Falls, and Bishop Larry Boyd, pastor of Open Praise Full Gospel Baptist Church in Buffalo. They "wish to exercise their fundamental, individual right to bear arms in public for self-defense by carrying concealed firearms on church property in case of confrontation to both themselves and their congregants."

Hardaway and Boyd, whose lawsuit was joined by the Firearms Policy Coalition and the Second Amendment Foundation, are licensed to carry concealed handguns and had consistently done so on church grounds as a safeguard against violent intruders. But New York's law—which prohibits guns in myriad "sensitive locations," including churches—made that precaution a Class E felony, punishable by up to four years in prison.

Under Bruen, the state has the burden of showing that such location-specific gun bans are "consistent with this Nation's historical tradition of firearm regulation," which requires identifying analogous restrictions that have long been recognized as constitutional. "New York fails that test," Sinatra writes. "The State's exclusion is, instead, inconsistent with the Nation's historical traditions, impermissibly infringing on the right to keep and bear arms in public for self-defense."

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