Schneiderman wins major gun-control case
|Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman recently won a noteworthy victory in preserving New York gun regulations. The state’s gun laws were challenged by a group that says the right to carry a concealed weapon should not require a special permit, making the law unconstitutional. Photo by Gazette file.|
September 19, 2011Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has won a significant legal battle concerning gun control in New York.
The case of Kachalsky, et al. v. Cacace, et al, raised the question of whether or not individuals have a right to carry a concealed handgun in public.
The Second Amendment Foundation, along with five individual plaintiffs, filed a federal lawsuit against Westchester County, seeking a permanent injunction against enforcement of a state law that requires a person applying for a concealed gun permit to show "good cause" for his or her application.
The plaintiffs argued that this requirement infringes on their Second Amendment rights. Two of the plaintiffs, Alan Kachalsky and Christina Nikolov, applied for a permit and were denied. Kachalsky was denied because he could not "demonstrate a need for self protection distinguishable from that of the general public" and Nikolov because she could not prove that there was "any type of threat to her own safety anywhere."
The constitutional challenge was rejected by Southern District Judge Cathy Seibel who, agreeing with the state's gun control laws, granted the state a motion for summary judgment and dismissed the plaintiff's case.
The plaintiffs cited two recent Supreme Court decisions in their arguments. In the 2007 case of District of Columbia v Heller and the 2009 case of McDonald v. City of Chicago, the court confirmed that the right to bear arms is guaranteed not only to citizens who own firearms for militia purposes, but who wish to possess them for lawful reasons, and that this right is guaranteed not only by the federal government, but applies to state governments as well, as per the Fourteenth Amendment.
Schneiderman's office represented the defendants.
Along with Westchester County, Susan Cacace and Jeffrey Cohen were named as defendants because they both served as handgun permit licensing officers for Westchester County.
The defendants argued that the "proper cause" provision was not unconstitutional because it did not violate the precedents set by the Supreme Court in Heller and McDonald. Seibel agreed with the defendants, ruling that the Second Amendment does guarantee a person's right to keep and bear arms in his home, but does not guarantee without restriction, a person's right to carry concealed handguns in public.
Seibel went on to elaborate that even if the Second Amendment did guarantee that right, New York State's "proper cause" provision would still be considered constitutional because the law exists to preserve the important government interest of promoting public safety by cutting down crimes committed by concealed handguns. She additionally ruled that the provision did not violate the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution because it didn't discriminate between license applicants. Despite his organization's loss in New York State Southern District Court, Dave Workman, spokesman for the Second Amendment Foundation, remains optimistic. "I think it's a little too soon for the defendants to be having a victory dance … this case is going to be appealed," he said. "Our attorney Alan Gura lost the two cases (Heller and McDonald) … in the lower courts, but managed to bring them all the way to the Supreme Court … he won where it counts."
Executive Vice President of the Second Amendment Foundation Alan Gottlieb echoed Workman's sentiment. "Thanks to our recent victory before the Supreme Court, the Second Amendment now applies to state and local governments. Our lawsuit is a reminder to state and local bureaucrats that we have a Bill of Rights in this country, not a 'Bill of Needs,'" Gottlieb said. Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence Jackie Hilly is satisfied with the court's decision.
"It was a really good victory for the public safety in New York." She was pleased that "the proper cause provision has been named constitutional." In response to the idea that this case could go to the Supreme Court, Hilly answered "the Supreme Court was pretty clear in Heller. As [Supreme Court Justice Antonin] Scalia said, '[the Second Amendment] doesn't mean any gun, anywhere, any time.'"