Legislation is worthless if it can’t withstand legal scrutiny.
And legislation that’s rushed through without debate in order to exploit a situation for political gain is the kind of legislation that judges tend to find problematic.
So let that be a lesson to Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state Legislature for the way in which they rushed through legislation this summer to strengthen the state’s concealed carry laws in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling striking down parts of the existing law.
The new law was passed and signed into law during an “extraordinary” session of the state Legislature held right before the July 4th holiday weekend, with very little advance notice and without giving lawmakers
or the public any time to review or debate the legislation.
Lawmakers took no lesson or warning from the Supreme Court ruling, and included provisions so over the top that they practically begged for legal challenges.
Among its provisions, the legislation limits the carrying of guns in virtually every public place imaginable, creates a presumption of prohibition of guns in businesses, requires pistol permit holders to disclose their social media accounts for three years, requires they provide the identities of relatives including spouses, requires that pistol permit holders go through 16 hours of in-person firearms training and requires permit seekers to undergo in-person interviews to determine whether they have “good moral character.”
Imagine if you had to show good moral character to exercise your right to free speech or your right to a speedy trial or to prevent an unreasonable search and seizure of your property.
Back in July when the bill was rushed through, we called it a sneaky and irresponsible way to govern. Now we’re finding out the consequences of passing laws that way.
On Thursday, a U.S. District Court judge issued a temporary restraining order for several elements of the law, including the social media disclosure, the interview to determine good moral character and the prohibition against carrying a weapon in many of the “sensitive locations” covered in the bill. The concealed carry ban still covers government buildings, polling places, schools and colleges, but other locations like entertainment venues are under the restraining order.
We’re not saying the judge was necessarily right in his ruling. And it’s very clear that the Hochul administration will appeal the ruling.
But what this ruling does is expose the obvious legal weaknesses in the new law and highlights the very problems that could have been avoided had this bill been subjected to the proper degree of scrutiny and public debate when it was first proposed.
Lawmakers and the governor should take the time they have now to review the judge’s concerns and consider going back and making the changes that would make this important public safety legislation better able to withstand legal challenges and more considerate of people’s rights.