Politics

New York Fights Back on Guns and Abortion After Supreme Court Rulings

A week after the Supreme Court issued monumental rulings loosening restrictions on carrying guns and overturning the constitutional right to abortion, New York began to enact sweeping measures designed to blunt the decisions’ effects.

In an extraordinary session convened by Gov. Kathy Hochul that began Thursday and carried late into Friday evening, the State Legislature adopted a new law placing significant restrictions on the carrying of handguns and initiated the process of passing a constitutional amendment enshrining the right to abortion in the state of New York.

The new legislation illustrates the growing distance between a conservative-led court that has reasserted its influence in American political life and blue states such as New York — one of the most left-leaning in the nation, where all three branches of government are controlled by Democrats and President Biden easily triumphed over Donald J. Trump in 2020.

As Republican-led states race rightward, the New York Legislature’s moves this week provided a preview of an intensifying clash between the court and Democratic states that will likely play out for years to come.

“We’re not going backwards,” Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, said at a news conference in Albany on Friday. “They may think they can change our lives with the stroke of a pen, but we have pens, too.”

She made remarks on the coming July 4 holiday, asking New Yorkers to remember what was being commemorated: “the founding of a great country that cherished the rights of individuals, freedoms and liberty for all.”

“I am standing here to protect freedom and liberty here in the state of New York,” she added.

During a special session of the New York State legislature, lawmakers passed a new bill restricting concealed weapons.Credit…Cindy Schultz for The New York Times

The state’s new gun law bars the carrying of handguns in many public settings such as subways and buses, parks, hospitals, stadiums and day cares. Guns will be off-limits on private property unless the property owner indicated that he or she expressly allowed them. At the last minute, lawmakers added Times Square to the list of restricted sites.

The law also requires permit applicants to undergo 16 hours of training on the handling of guns and two hours of firing range training, as well as an in-person interview and a written exam. Applicants will also be subject to the scrutiny of local officials, who will retain some discretion in the permitting process.

Enshrining the right to abortion in the state’s constitution will be more onerous. Amending the State Constitution is a yearslong process, which starts with passage by the Legislature. Then, after a general election, another session of the Legislature must pass the amendment before it is presented to voters in a ballot referendum.

Key Results in New York’s 2022 Primary Elections

On June 28, New York held several primaries for statewide office, including for governor and lieutenant governor. Some State Assembly districts also had primaries.

  • Kathy Hochul: With her win in the Democratic, the governor of New York took a crucial step toward winning a full term, fending off a pair of spirited challengers.
  • Antonio Delgado: Ms. Hochul’s second in command and running mate also scored a convincing victory over his nearest Democratic challenger, Ana María Archila.
  • Lee Zeldin: The congressman from Long Island won the Republican primary for governor, advancing to what it’s expected to be a grueling general election.
  • N.Y. State Assembly: Long-tenured incumbents were largely successful in fending off a slate of left-leaning insurgents in the Democratic primary.

But lawmakers took a first step on Friday when the Senate passed the Equal Rights Amendment, which along with guaranteeing rights to abortion and access to contraception, prohibited the government from discriminating against anyone based on a list of qualifications including race, ethnicity, national origin, disability or sex — specifically noting sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and pregnancy on the list of protected conditions. (An Assembly vote was expected to follow.)

Some of the protected classes in the language of the measure appeared to anticipate future rulings from the court, which also indicated last week that it might overturn cases that established the right to same-sex marriage, same-sex consensual relations and contraception.

“We’re playing legislative Whac-a-Mole with the Supreme Court,” said Senator Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat. “Any time they come up with a bad idea we’ll counter it with legislation at the state level.”

“Civil liberties are hanging in the balance,” he added.

New York Republicans, who have little sway in either legislative chamber, split over the Equal Rights Amendment, with seven voting in favor and 13 against. But they were united in opposition against the concealed carry bill, saying Democrats had tipped the balance much too heavily in favor of restrictions.

“Instead of addressing the root of the problem and holding violent criminals accountable, Albany politicians are preventing law-abiding New Yorkers, who have undergone permit classes, background checks and a licensing process from exercising their constitutional right to keep and bear arms,” said Robert Ortt, the Republican leader in the Senate, who is from Western New York.

The session in Albany took place just a week after the Supreme Court — now fully in the control of right-leaning justices, three of whom were appointed by Mr. Trump — moved forward on a pair of issues that have long animated conservatives.

Last Thursday, it struck down New York’s century-old law that was among the strictest in the nation in regulating the public carrying of guns. The decision found that the law, which required that applicants demonstrate that they had a heightened need to carry a firearm in public, was too restrictive and allowed local officials too much discretion. The court invited states to update their laws.

The following day, the court overturned Roe v. Wade, stripping Americans of the constitutional right to abortion nearly 50 years after it was first granted.

New York will be the first of six states directly affected by the gun ruling to pass a new law restricting the carrying of guns. Similar legislation has been proposed in New Jersey, where a top legislative leader said this week it was possible lawmakers could be called back into session this summer to respond.

Officials there have coordinated directly with their counterparts in New York, and the two laws are expected to share many features.

Lawmakers in Hawaii have also said that they are working on new firearm legislation, while officials in California, Maryland and Massachusetts are discussing how the court’s decision should be addressed in their states.

In an interview, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Senate majority leader in New York, said that Democratic leaders were adamant that New York “model what state legislatures all over this national can do to reaffirm the rights of their residents.”

The State Senate majority leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, center, holds a news conference on Friday during the second day of the special legislative session in Albany.Credit…Cindy Schultz for The New York Times

She defended the new concealed carry restrictions as a common-sense safety measure that balanced Second Amendment interests laid out by the Supreme Court with concerns about legally carrying weapons into sensitive or crowded places, particularly in dense urban areas like New York City already facing a scourge of gun violence.

“We didn’t want an open season,” Ms. Stewart-Cousins said. “In the environment that we are in, it is important to make sure that we are creating a process that respects what the Supreme Court has said but allows us to keep New Yorkers as safe as possible.”

Republicans disagreed.

“If you look at the sensitive areas, it’s the entire state, it’s everywhere,” said State Senator Andrew Lanza, a member of Republican leadership from Staten Island. “So much of New York is now considered a sensitive area for the purpose of this law that there is no such thing as a concealed permit anymore.”

Andrew Lanza, center, the deputy minority leader, spoke against the New York State Senate’s gun safety legislation on Friday, saying, “There is no such thing as a concealed permit anymore.”Credit…Cindy Schultz for The New York Times

Two other states, California and Vermont, have also moved closer to placing abortion protections in their constitutions. This week, lawmakers in California advanced a constitutional amendment enshrining the right, and in November, residents of both states will vote on whether to make the amendments law.

Republican-led states are charging hard in the other direction. So far, seven have banned abortion since the justices’ decision last week. Another half dozen, including Texas and Tennessee, are expected to quickly follow suit. And voters in states like Kentucky and Kansas will soon decide whether to ban the practice via referendum.

By pushing so quickly in New York to respond to both rulings, Ms. Hochul and Democratic legislative leaders have kept the state on a path set by her predecessor, Andrew M. Cuomo, during Mr. Trump’s presidency. Before allegations of sexual misconduct from a number of women led to his resignation, Mr. Cuomo was explicit in juxtaposing his agenda with the priorities of the Republican president, saying in late 2018 that he was declaring New York’s independence.

State Senator Michael Gianaris of Queens, the deputy majority leader, said New Yorkers should expect more of the same in the coming years.

“The Supreme Court seems intent on destroying this country one decision at a time,” he said in an interview. “Today, we made clear that New York will stand up against this rollback of rights that we’ve come to expect in the United States. You can expect we will continuing doing this as the court keeps issuing horrible decisions.”

Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Grace Ashford, Tracey Tully and Hurubie Meko contributed reporting.

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