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Black attorneys blast NY gun laws, they ‘criminalize gun ownership by racial and ethnic minorities’

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A group of black attorneys has filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court charging that New York state’s restrictions for the concealed carry of firearms is racist in support of a historic challenge to the statutes ahead of the high court’s Nov. 3 hearings.

A lawsuit initially filed by the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association seeks to have the rules struck down as unconstitutional infringements on the Second Amendment’s guarantee of a right to keep and bear firearms. Currently, the state requires residents to prove “a special need for self-protection” so they can obtain a concealed carry permit.

But according to the brief filed by Black Attorneys for Legal Aid on behalf of 10 public defender offices and a trio of legal assistance organizations, the restrictions are discriminatory and racist against New Yorkers of color, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

“We represent hundreds of indigent people whom New York criminally charges for exercising their right to keep and bear arms,” says the brief. “Virtually all our clients … are Black or Hispanic. And that is no accident.

“New York enacted its firearm licensing requirements to criminalize gun ownership by racial and ethnic minorities. That remains the effect of its enforcement by police and prosecutors today,” the brief continued.

The brief goes on to cite statistics showing uneven support for the restrictions, similar to that among blacks and Hispanics regarding the ‘defund police’ movement.

Also, according to survey data, minorities mostly consider gun violence a major problem even as legal gun ownership among blacks is skyrocketing.

Plaintiffs in the gun rights case also said that the state’s “proper cause” requirement makes concealed carry nearly unachievable for the vast majority of New Yorkers save for a select few such as celebrities and former police officers. They noted that, for all intents and purposes, there is no real concealed carry option in the state regardless of what the law says.

Nearly 10 other states have laws that mirror the New York statute and those, too, could be at risk of being struck down as well depending on how the Supreme Court decides and the overall scope of the ruling. As of now, the high court has never considered the constitutionality of being able to carry a concealed firearm outside of a person’s home, so the current case will likely have far-reaching consequences regardless of how justices rule.

The black lawyer coalition also argues that the statute puts minority and indigent applicants at a distinct disadvantage due to the cost of filing an application in many jurisdictions. The fee in New York City proper, for instance, is $400.

The coalition’s brief also stated that minorities are disproportionally convicted of felonies associated with illegally carrying a concealed firearm.

“The penal consequences of New York’s licensing requirements are reflected in today’s data from the criminal legal system,” the brief says. “In 2020, while Black people made up 18 percent of New York’s population, they accounted for 78 percent of the state’s felony gun possession cases.”

One of the cases cited in the brief involved a U.S. military veteran from Texas under the pseudonym of Jasmine Phillips. She was arrested on a firearms charge while driving her kids to New York so they could see their father.

On a tip, NYPD officers stopped her, discovered the gun, and arrested her; she obtained the firearm legally and possessed it lawfully in the Lone Star state. Ultimately the case was dismissed after being diverted but it was a major disruption to Phillips’ life, the brief said.

“Aside from her pretrial incarceration at Rikers Island, social services intervened after the arrest and opened a child neglect proceeding. A judge ultimately ruled against her in an ensuing child custody dispute, citing the felony arrest. The New York case also formed the basis of her eviction from her rental property in Texas,” the Free Beacon reported.

Jon Dougherty

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