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Lawmakers heading back to Albany for special session after Supreme Court gun ruling

New York Governor Kathy Hochul holds a gun magazine during a press conference detailing efforts to combat domestic terrorism and gun violence on May 18, 2022.
WAMC screenshot
New York Governor Kathy Hochul holds a gun magazine during a press conference detailing efforts to combat domestic terrorism and gun violence on May 18, 2022.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul, who scored a resounding win in Tuesday’s primary, is not stopping to savor her victory. She outlined her plan for a Thursday special session of the legislature to address the Supreme Court decision that struck down New York’s restrictions on carrying a concealed weapon.

The governor says she’s still working on details with the Senate and Assembly, but says the state’s new concealed carry regulations will include several “sensitive” locations that will be off limits to concealed handguns, including schools, government buildings, public transit, parks, hospitals, and public gatherings of more than 100 people.

She says for all private property and businesses, the default position would be that concealed weapons are not permitted. The owner of the business or land would have to post a sign specifically stating that concealed weapons are permissible, if they are OK with that. Hochul says it would give New Yorkers peace of mind when they leave their homes.

“That they don’t have to worry about someone being right there next to them, having a weapons, whereas before they would not have a right to be there,” the governor said.

But she concedes that after the Supreme Court ruling that struck down New York’s 100-year-old law on limiting the carrying of concealed weapons, she can’t restrict access everywhere, and she anticipates that there will be more weapons on the streets in the future. She says Justice Clarence Thomas, in his opinion, said that an urban area, like the borough of Manhattan, could not be considered entirely off limits to concealed weapons. But she says the national legal experts she’s been working with believe the state still has some powers of regulation.

“I will go right up to the line, but I won’t cross the line,” Hochul said.

It would also be more difficult to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon. A background check would include a search for a history of dangerous behavior or mental health problems, and background checks would also be required for purchasing ammunition. 15 hours of in-person firearm safety training would be required, and rules on safe storage would be expanded. Homes with anyone under the age of 18 would have to securely lock up their guns at all times when they aren’t using them.

Hochul also commented on her resounding primary win over two opponents, after replacing the hard charging former Governor Andrew Cuomo, who resigned in a sexual harassment scandal. Speaking with reporters shortly after the polls closed Tuesday night, she said she’s showing that governing can be more cooperative and less about personal ego, saying “people are so tired of the drama.”

“People are crying for a new kind of leadership, they’ve never had a woman for their governor before, and they didn’t know what to expect,” Hochul said. “And 10 months later to have this scale of support is humbling to me, but also opens the doors to all women. All women now know there are no barriers, because a woman has succeeded.”

Hochul is painting her Republican opponent, Long Island Congressman Lee Zeldin, as a right-wing extremist and highlighting his support of former President Donald Trump. Trump is popular among republicans in the state, but not with independents and democrats, who represent far more voters.

And Hochul, a former Congresswoman in the early 2010’s, says she intends to use her political capital to help democrats hold on to and win seats in Congress. She says she knows the pain of being the minority party, and she says she does not want to see the GOP hold control again.

“They’ve already telegraphed that they are willing to have a national ban on abortion rights,” Hochul said. “That’s not a scary movie. That’s what Republicans are saying.”

But she says for now, she needs to focus on fixing New York’s laws after the recent Supreme Court decisions. She says six judges are no match against 213 state legislators. And she says the ruling is a “temporary setback.”

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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