Federal judge strikes down New York City’s ‘unconstitutional’ gun restrictions

by WorldTribune Staff / 247 Real News October 26, 2023

Federal Judge John P. Cronan on Tuesday ruled that New York City’s gun restrictions are in violation of both the Second and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

In a 48-page ruling, Judge Cronan specifically criticized the city for allowing broad discretion to local officials in denying gun permits based on “moral character,” which the judge said was a violation of the Second Amendment.

The judge ruled that empowering unelected officials with discretionary authority to refuse gun permits to those “not of good moral character” or for “other good cause” is inconsistent with the country’s “tradition of firearm regulation” – a standard set by the Supreme Court in last year’s New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen case, which overturned the Empire State’s century-old law restricting the carrying of concealed firearms.

Cronan, a Trump appointee, found the city requirements “vague and unconstrained” but stayed his ruling through Thursday to allow officials time to appeal.

“This case is not about the ability of a state or municipality to impose appropriate and constitutionally valid regulations governing the issuance of firearm licenses and permits. The constitutional infirmities identified herein lie not in the City’s decision to impose requirements for the possession of handguns, rifles, and shotguns,” the judge wrote.

“Rather, the provisions fail to pass constitutional muster because of the magnitude of discretion afforded to city officials in denying an individual their constitutional right to keep and bear firearms, and because of defendants’ failure to show that such unabridged discretion has any grounding in our nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”

The case came before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York after Joseph Srour applied for a permit to possess rifles and shotguns in his home in 2018, followed by an application for a handgun license for home possession in 2019. Both applications were denied due to past arrests, a poor driving record, and allegedly making false statements, according to the court documents.

“Based on your prior arrests for [redacted] you have shown poor moral judgment and an unwillingness to abide by the law,” the NYPD License Division explained to Srour in one of the denial notices sent to him. “The above circumstances, as well as your derogatory driving record (twenty-eight moving violations and thirty license suspensions), reflect negatively on your moral character and casts [sic] grave doubt upon your fitness to possess a firearm.”

In his lawsuit against the city, Srour and his legal team charged that the city’s gun permit rules were ambiguous at best and authoritarian at worst, providing city officials with almost unchecked authority to deny an individual’s constitutional right to bear arms. Provisions enabling city officials to evaluate a firearms applicant’s “good moral character” and to determine whether “good cause exists for the denial” of gun permits were cited by Judge Cronan as evidence of this overreach.

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