Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN News

Buffaloed in New York: A Right Treated as a Privilege Makes an Easy Target for Revocation

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Buffaloed in New York: A Right Treated as a Privilege Makes an Easy Target for Revocation

During a press conference in November, Police Commissioner Daniel Derrenda of Buffalo, N.Y., announced that his department had “started a program where … we’re cross-referencing all the pistol permit holders with the death records … and … sending people out to collect the guns whenever possible.” He seemed haunted by the idea of handguns unattached to living licensees and spoke of them almost as if they were unsupervised, easily corruptible orphans: “At times, they lay out there, and the family is not aware of them … and they end up … just out on the street.”

The plan rightly enraged many as being overbearing. Fortunately, in the weeks since the announcement was made, we haven’t heard of any grieving survivors whose doors have been kicked down by police looking for their departed loved ones’ handguns.

Whatever the Buffalo PD may have in mind with this particular operation, it illustrates what can happen when the most basic and well-established of Second Amendment-protected rights—having a handgun in the home for self-protection—is subject to licensing and registration. While questions remain about if and how the plan will proceed, Commissioner Derrenda’s comments illustrate some of the assumptions that underlie the licensing and registration of firearms. All of them are incompatible with the idea of the Second Amendment as protecting a fundamental individual right that, as theHeller court wrote, “necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table.”

Before Heller, New York courts justified the state’s strict gun control laws by denying that the Second Amendment protected any sort of individual right. For example, a 2004 opinion by a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit that included Sonia Sotomayor—later nominated by President Obama to the U.S. Supreme Court—dismissed the appellant’s Second Amendment claim in a footnote. According to the appellant, merely being seen with a handgun could not be considered automatic evidence of criminality, and New York law to the contrary violated the Second Amendment. The court cited earlier Second Circuit precedent that stated, “The right to possess a gun is clearly not a fundamental right.” Of course, that precedent has been since been overruled by Heller and McDonald. Yet much of New York’s gun control regime has not only survived those decisions; rather, it has become even stricter in recent years.

Legal possession of a handgun in New York, even in one’s own home, requires a license. An applicant must demonstrate “good moral character” to the issuing official. Assuming that condition is met, the license can still be denied for “good cause,” whatever that might mean to the person who issues the license. New York courts have repeatedly ruled that these provisions give licensing officers discretion to expand upon the statutorily enumerated disqualifiers, even after Heller and McDonald.

Incredibly, a 2011 case from the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court, decided nearly a year after the U.S. Supreme Court in McDonald ruled that possession of a handgun is a fundamental right, stated, “Possession of a handgun license is a privilege, not a right. …” As such, in New York, “it is subject to the broad discretion of the Police Commissioner.” Thus, for example, while certain misdemeanor convictions are automatic disqualifiers, a person can also be denied merely for having been accused of a crime, even if the complaint was ultimately dismissed or resolved in that person’s favor. So much for being innocent until proven guilty.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s clear decision that possessing a handgun is a fundamental right the state must respect, rather than merely a reward for what a local bureaucrat considers good behavior, is being massively resisted by the state of New York. It completely defies Heller’s pronouncement that the “very enumeration of the right takes out of the hands of government … the power to decide on a case-by-case basis whether the right is really worth insisting upon.”

No wonder, then, that Commissioner Derrenda presumes that any possession of a handgun that has not first received some official blessing is a problem to be solved, not the innocent exercise of an inalienable right. Those who insist that the exercise of rights can proceed only by permission—like the advocates of universal background checks—do so on the same basic assumptions. Where such measures are the law of the land, “collection” activities like the one announced in Buffalo should come as no surprise.

IN THIS ARTICLE
Chris W. Cox
TRENDING NOW
Washington State Firearm Confiscation Law Found Unconstitutional

News  

Monday, October 26, 2020

Washington State Firearm Confiscation Law Found Unconstitutional

Earlier this year, in a ruling of first impression in Washington State, the Kitsap County District Court decided that the state’s compulsory “firearm surrender” laws violated the Fourth and Fifth Amendments and the analogous provisions ...

The Incredible Shrinking Gun Control Message

News  

Monday, October 26, 2020

The Incredible Shrinking Gun Control Message

Throughout the two presidential debates and single vice-presidential debate the moderators did not ask a single question about gun control or the right to keep and bear arms. The dearth of coverage on Second Amendment issues at ...

Was Bloomberg Group Shamed Into Being (Sort of) Honest?

News  

Monday, October 26, 2020

Was Bloomberg Group Shamed Into Being (Sort of) Honest?

The gun-ban proponents at Everytown, New York Billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s personal anti-gun advocacy apparatus, have finally begun talking about guns in their political ads. In August and September, we pointed out that Everytown seemed rather focused in its ...

Anti-gun Politicians Seek to Tax Your Second Amendment Rights Into Oblivion

News  

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Anti-gun Politicians Seek to Tax Your Second Amendment Rights Into Oblivion

In 1819, Chief Justice John Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court famously wrote:  “the power to tax involves the power to destroy ….”

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

Gun Laws  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law.

Your Action Needed: Urge the Department of Justice to Rein in ATF's Arbitrary Determination on "Honey Badger" Pistol!

News  

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Your Action Needed: Urge the Department of Justice to Rein in ATF's Arbitrary Determination on "Honey Badger" Pistol!

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) recently informed firearm manufacturer Q, LLC that, in ATF’s view, Q’s “Honey Badger” pistol with stabilizing brace is actually a short-barreled rifle and therefore subject to the National ...

The NRA Applauds Confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett

News  

Monday, October 26, 2020

The NRA Applauds Confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett

The NRA applauds President Trump and his nomination of Justice Barrett, along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for their leadership and service during the confirmation process.

Joe Biden Told Voters the Second Amendment DOES NOT Protect an Individual Right

News  

Monday, September 21, 2020

Joe Biden Told Voters the Second Amendment DOES NOT Protect an Individual Right

During a September 2019 “townhall” hosted by New Hampshire ABC affiliate WMUR, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden made clear that he does not believe the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms and ...

Please Urge the Department of Justice to Rein in ATF's Arbitrary Determination on "Honey Badger" Pistol

News  

Monday, October 12, 2020

Please Urge the Department of Justice to Rein in ATF's Arbitrary Determination on "Honey Badger" Pistol

As we reported last week, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) recently informed firearm manufacturer Q, LLC that, in ATF’s view, Q’s “Honey Badger” pistol with stabilizing brace is actually a short-barreled rifle and ...

Gun Control May be Wasting Away, But Not Because of COVID

News  

Monday, October 19, 2020

Gun Control May be Wasting Away, But Not Because of COVID

A recent article on a gun control news site laments that the COVID-19 pandemic has thwarted ballot initiatives to expand gun bans and restrictions. Initiatives in Florida, Oklahoma, Ohio and Oregon have stalled, allegedly due to the ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -

More Like This From Around The NRA

NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.