On Friday evening, the New York State Legislature concluded a two-day extraordinary legislative session called by Governor Hochul in response to two recent Supreme Court decisions. The legislature had been initially called back to consider legislation addressing the Supreme Court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc., et al. v. Bruen, Superintendent of New York State Police, et al., which struck down the state’s concealed carry statute. Governor Hochul subsequently expanded the scope of the legislature’s charge for the session on Friday, July 1, to include a state constitutional amendment expanding equal rights protections.
Concealed Carry Improvement Act
Shortly after the legislature passed the Concealed Carry Improvement Act (S.51001 Stewart-Cousins / A.41001 Heastie) related to certain firearms reforms, Governor Hochul signed the legislation into law (Chapter 371 of the Laws of 2022). The law contains measures intended to address firearm safety in New York, including:
- Establishing New York as a Point of Contact state, allowing the state to run its own background checks for firearms sales and licenses
- Requiring that concealed carry applicants demonstrate “good moral character” as a condition of their eligibility for a firearm license
- Requiring concealed carry applicants to complete an approved firearm safety course, including 16 hours of in-person live curriculum and two hours of live-fire range training
- Expanding existing safe storage requirements to households with members under 18 years of age (the current requirement is households with members under 16 years of age)
- Prohibiting a person from leaving a rifle, shotgun or firearm inside a vehicle without first removing the ammunition and securely locking such weapon in a safe storage depository that is out of sight from outside of the vehicle
- Expanding background checks for concealed carry applicants, including social media checks
- Modifying the state’s ammunition purchasing database and background checks, which were previously required but not yet implemented under the state’s SAFE Act
- Expanding prohibitions on body armor sales in the state to include hard plate armor
- Prohibiting (subject to a Class E felony) carrying firearms in “sensitive locations,” defined to include:
- any place owned or under the control of federal, state or local governments, for the purpose of government administration (including courts)
- any location providing health, behavioral health or chemical dependence care or services
- any place of worship or religious observation
- libraries, public playgrounds, public parks and zoos
- the location of any program licensed, regulated, certified, funded or approved by the NYS Office of Children and Family Services
- a NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene-permitted childcare program
- nursery schools, preschools and summer camps
- the location of any program licensed, regulated, certified, operated or funded by the NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities
- the location of any program licensed, regulated, certified, operated or funded by the NYS Office of Addiction Services and Supports
- the location of any program licensed, regulated, certified, operated or funded by the NYS Office of Mental Health
- the location of any program licensed, regulated, certified, operated or funded by the NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance
- homeless shelters, runaway homeless youth shelters, family shelters, shelters for adults, domestic violence shelters and emergency shelters as well as residential programs for victims of domestic violence
- residential settings licensed, certified, regulated, funded or operated by the NYS Department of Health
- in or upon any building or grounds, owned or leased, of any educational institutions, colleges and universities, licensed private career schools, school districts, public schools, private schools, charter schools, nonpublic schools, BOCES, special act schools, preschool special education programs, private residential or nonresidential schools for the education of students with disabilities, and any state-operated or state-supported schools
- public transportation, including subway cars, train cars, buses, ferries, omnibus, marine or aviation transportation; or any facility used for or in connection with such public transportation
- any establishment issued a liquor license or cannabis permit for on-premises consumption
- any place used for performance, art entertainment, gaming or sporting events, such as theaters, stadiums, racetracks, museums, amusement parks, performance venues, concerts, exhibits, conference centers, banquet halls, gaming facilities and video lottery terminal facilities
- polling places
- any public sidewalk or other public area restricted from general public access for a limited time or special event that has been issued a permit for such time or event by a governmental entity; or that is subject to specific, heightened law enforcement protection; or that has otherwise had such access restricted by a governmental entity, provided such location is identified with clear signage
- any gathering of individuals to collectively express their constitutional rights to protest or assemble
- Times Square, provided such area shall be clearly identified with signage
- Prohibiting carrying a firearm on private property unless the owner or lessee of that property has conspicuously or expressly permitted such possession
- Exempting several groups from “sensitive location” and private property restrictions, including active duty military members, security guards with proper registration, peace officers, lawful hunting and hunting education, as well as current and retired police officers
The provisions of the Concealed Carry Improvement Act will go into effect on September 1, 2022, and the state agencies responsible for expanded background checks and developing the training course will have until April 1, 2023, to implement those provisions.
Proposed Equal Rights Amendment
On Friday, both houses of the legislature also passed a resolution proposing an Equal Rights Amendment to the state’s constitution (S.51002 Stewart-Cousins/A.41002 Heastie).
The resolution passed by the legislature proposes to add ethnicity, national origin, age, disability and sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, pregnancy outcomes, and reproductive health care and autonomy) to the state’s existing constitutional protections that currently prohibit discrimination based on race, color, creed or religion.
Amendments to the state constitution require approval by the attorney general and passage by two consecutively elected legislatures. Accordingly, the amendment passed on July 1 will next be referred to the newly elected legislature that will be seated in January 2023. Should the next-elected legislature similarly pass the amendment, it would then be placed on a statewide ballot at the same time as the General Election (i.e., November) and would require the approval of a majority of voters if it were to become law.
The Manatt team will continue to monitor developments in Albany and looks forward to keeping you updated as additional information becomes available.