By Tandy Lau
No reason to suspect the Elmo and Spider-Man in Times Square are packing legal heat under those sweaty costumes, for now. State Attorney General Letitia James announced the full Concealed Carry Improvement Act (CCIA) would remain in effect after a judge granted an interim administrative stay for the contested New York state law last week. So no guns in Times Square, until a trio of Second Circuit judges decide on their motion to stay.
“I am pleased that the full Concealed Carry Improvement Act will stay in effect and continue to protect communities as the appeals process moves forward,” she said in her statement. “My office will continue our efforts to protect the safety of everyday New Yorkers and defend our common-sense gun laws.”
“The interim administrative stay of the district court’s temporary restraining order is an important and appropriate step and affirms that the Concealed Carry Improvement Act will remain in effect during the appeals process,” said Gov. Kathy Hochul. “My top priority will always be to keep New Yorkers safe, and we will continue working with the office of the attorney general to defend our gun safety laws.”
This news comes on the heels of the district court’s decision to limit parts of the CCIA, including banning concealed carry guns in “sensitive areas” like Times Square, along with a wide range of other spaces including public transit, places of worship, and restaurants serving alcohol. The stay also allows the state to enforce “good moral character” requirements for handgun licenses, mandating holders to impart recent social media activity. And prevents strangers from concealed carrying guns onto private property without the owner’s consent.
The CCIA came as a response—and concession—to the United States Supreme Court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen to strike down the state’s license requirements for carrying concealed guns in public as unconstitutional. But in a game of legislative whack-a-mole, the new law’s constitutionality is also getting challenged through the case Antonyuk et al. v. Hochul.
While “Big Apple” gun violence prevention efforts largely concentrate on “ghost guns” and other illegal firearms, unfettered public concealed carry brings a slew of new issues in the country’s most densely-populated city, as reported earlier this summer by the Amsterdam News. Returning fire during a shooting puts bystanders at higher risk—whether the gun is legal or not.
The dangers are especially high in crowded areas like Times Square, prompting Mayor Eric Adams to sign bill Intro 602-A last week, which designates the tourist hub as a conceal-carry-free zone via the CCIA. The legislation’s author, City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, called the move an important effort “to prevent an exacerbation of the gun violence crisis” during the Mayor’s Office announcement.
“The U.S. Supreme Court’s harmful decision to strike down New York’s century-old gun laws places New Yorkers at risk of increased gun violence,” she said. “After our partners in the state legislature passed sensible legislation to limit the areas where a person can carry a weapon, the Council completed its duty to define the Times Square area, one of the ‘sensitive locations’ where strict firearm regulations are enforced.”
The city’s gun violence prevention czar Andre “A.T.” Mitchell is also a proponent, telling the NY Amsterdam News that Times Square is “too crowded of an area for random people to be out there with a legal or illegal firearm.”
In conjunction, Mayor Adams also signed Intro 518-A, a bill introduced by Councilmember Shaun Abreu for the mayor’s office to produce an annual report on each illegal gun seized by or surrendered to the NYPD. As for his thoughts on the CCIA, he said the city would comply with any judicial ruling. But he hopes Times Square doesn’t become the wild, wild west.
“There’s no sign on your forehead saying, ‘I’m the good guy, I’m the bad guy,’” said Adams. “And anyone who believes a place like New York could become Dodge City and all of a sudden, you are in danger and your loved ones, your family members, your children, because now all the illegal gun owners are now carrying a gun in a city like New York, as densely populated like New York.”
Tandy Lau is a Report for America corps member and writes about public safety for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w.