Two Pastors Are Among the Plaintiffs Arguing State Shouldn’t Bar Firearms from Churches
Two gun-rights groups and two Black pastors are suing to overturn part of New York’s new gun law and allow people to bring guns with them to churches and other places of worship.
The Rev. Dr. Jimmie Hardaway, Jr. and Bishop Larry Boyd sued New York State Police Superintendent Kevin Bruen and other New York officials in federal court in the western district of New York. The other plaintiffs are the Second Amendment Foundation and the Firearms Policy Coalition.
UPDATE: A federal judge on Thursday temporarily blocked the part of a New York state law that makes it a crime for people to carry guns in places of worship.U.S. District Judge John Sinatra Jr. sided with two Buffalo-area clerics joined by two gun rights organizations who had sued and sought a temporary restraining order to stop the enforcement of the law while the case proceeds.The two sides are scheduled to argue the matter in court on Nov. 3 as Sinatra weighs whether to go further and issue a preliminary injunction.
“The right of self-defense is the oldest human right, and New York’s law is written to frustrate the exercise of that right at every turn,” said Alan Gottlieb, the founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation.
The pastors and the gun-rights groups are asking Judge John Sinatra Jr., who was nominated by Trump, to issue a temporary restraining order prohibiting New York from preventing people from bringing guns to church. A hearing was scheduled for Thursday (Oct. 20).
The lawsuit ignores criminals except to assert that law-abiding people need guns to protect themselves in churches, synagogues and other places of worship and should be allowed to carry concealed weapons. New York legislators passed a new gun law in July after our nation’s Supreme Court effectively edited the words “a well-regulated militia” out of the Second Amendment.
The 6-3 decision, with all three of Trump’s NRA-endorsed justices voting for it, threw out the two-part test that federal and state courts used since a 2008 Supreme Court decision to reject most Second Amendment arguments of gun rights activists. The decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen invalidated a 111-year-old New York law that limited who can carry guns outside their homes.
The lawsuit asserts that law-abiding people need guns to protect themselves in churches, synagogues and other places of worship and should be allowed to carry concealed weapons.
Hardaway, who is licensed to carry a gun, said in court documents that he almost always carried a gun for self-defense at Trinity Baptist Church in Niagara Falls, N.Y. since nine people were killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. in 2015. He stopped after the New York gun law was passed.
“I am firmly committed to defending my church to prevent anything like Charleston happening to our church community at Trinity Baptist,” Hardaway said.
Boyd, who is also licensed to have a gun, said in court documents that he regularly carried a gun at Open Praise Full Gospel Baptist Church in Buffalo, N.Y. before the New York law took effect.
“I will not always know who will walk in the door for services, and I will not know if these strangers come with violent plans,” Boyd said.
Open Praise is in the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood of Buffalo which has struggled with crime, violence and gang-related incidents
New York’s new gun law makes it a crime to carry guns in places that include churches and other houses of worship and most other public places, including libraries, public playgrounds, public parks and zoos. Gun owners also can’t take their guns to government buildings, childcare providers, the subway, schools, bars, theaters, stadiums, polling places or Times Square.
“The Supreme Court issued a reckless decision removing century-old limitations on who is allowed to carry concealed weapons in our state – senselessly sending us backward and putting the safety of our residents in jeopardy,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said of the new law. “Today, we are taking swift and bold action to protect New Yorkers.”
Violators can be banned from owning and carrying guns. New Yorkers who want to carry guns need to undergo background checks, submit character references and take firearm safety training.
People who have documented violent behavior can’t get a concealed carry permit. Neither can people with misdemeanor convictions for weapons possession, recent treatment for drug-related reasons or alcohol-related misdemeanor convictions.
U.S. District Court Judge Glenn Suddaby, ruling in another lawsuit, blocked New York from enforcing the law in areas such as Times Square and city subways, but the Second Circuit Court of Appeals later ruled that the law can stay in place for now.
Under the Bruen decision, the Supreme Court told lower courts to look at historical regulations of sensitive places like churches to determine whether modern gun regulation is constitutionally permissible.
The Second Amendment Foundation argues in the lawsuit that New York’s ban on carrying guns in church isn’t valid because of colonial laws like a 1643 law in Connecticut. A 1632 Virginia law required that “All men that are fittinge to beare armes, shall bringe their pieces to the church.”