Supreme Court Ruling Means NYC’s Restrictions on Gun Licensing Are Unconstitutional: Federal Judge

Supreme Court’s Bruen ruling affects New York City’s ’moral character' restrictions, new ruling states.
Supreme Court Ruling Means NYC’s Restrictions on Gun Licensing Are Unconstitutional: Federal Judge
NYPD Police Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell speaks during a briefing, on Feb. 13, 2023. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
Zachary Stieber

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down New York state’s restrictive gun permitting scheme means the New York City rules that enable officials to deny people firearm licenses over their moral character violate the U.S. Constitution, a federal judge has ruled.

New York officials “have failed to show that the broad discretion afforded to licensing officials” under city code “is consistent with the history and tradition of firearm regulation in this country,” U.S. District Judge John Cronan said in his ruling.

City law lets officials reject applications for gun permits if they determine a person is not “of good moral character” or for any other “good cause.”

The ruling came in a case brought by Joseph Srour, a New York City resident who applied for gun licenses from the New York City Police Department (NYPD) in 2018 and 2019.

NYPD officials denied the applications because Mr. Srour had been arrested, fined for traffic violations, and had his driver’s license revoked. He was never convicted of a crime.

The arrests, Mr. Srour not disclosing them to the NYPD, and his driving record “reflect negatively upon your moral character and casts grave doubt upon your fitness to possess a firearm,” city officials wrote in one of the rejection letters.

Mr. Srour argued through attorneys that his arrests and driving record had nothing to do with his Second Amendment right to carry guns.

“An individual’s driving history has no cognizable, historically recognized basis as a prohibitor to the possession, purchase, or use of firearm,” his complaint stated.

City lawyers said in response that the challenged regulations were “presumptively constitutional” under U.S. Supreme Court decisions, pointing to how there have been rules in the United States dating back to the 1700s restricting gun ownership by people “deemed dangerous or potentially dangerous.”

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2022 in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen found that New York state’s scheme for gun permits was unconstitutional because it infringed on the American right to own and possess guns. The scheme required people to prove that they had “proper cause” to carry outside their homes.

To be constitutional, regulations must be “consistent with this nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation,” the nation’s top court said in the ruling.

Judge Cronan, appointed under President Donald Trump, said New York officials have not met that bar.

“The historical information presented by Defendants fails to reveal a ‘distinctly similar historical regulation’ to the at-issue provisions,” he wrote, adding later that city officials have also “not identified any historical analogue for investing officials with the broad discretion to restrict someone’s Second Amendment right based on determining the person to ‘lack ... good moral character’ or for a vague and undefined notion of ‘good cause.’”

Judge Cronan gave city officials time to appeal the decision before it took effect. On Thursday, he rejected a request for a stay pending appeal but extended the temporary stay to let officials ask for a stay from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

City officials said they still think the rules are constitutional.

“Firearm licensing regulations crafted by the state and the city are lawful, consistent with the Court’s decision in Bruen, and necessary to keep the public safe,” they told news outlets in a statement.

Amy Bellantoni, an attorney representing Mr. Srour, said that the ruling adhered to the Supreme Court decisions in Bruen, District of Columbia v. Heller, McDonald v. Chicago, and Caetano v. Massachusetts.”

“The court’s decision was true to the text, history, and tradition analysis that began in Heller and continued through McDonald, Caetano, and Bruen,” Ms. Bellantoni told The Epoch Times in an email. “We expect a consistent ruling in the Second Circuit. Discretion simply cannot be woven into the government’s regulation of arms.”