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
NRA-ILA Backed Lawsuit Filed Challenging Oregon Measure 114

Thursday, December 1, 2022

NRA-ILA Backed Lawsuit Filed Challenging Oregon Measure 114

Today an NRA-backed lawsuit was filed challenging Ballot Measure 114, which voters passed by a slim margin last month. Measure 114 creates a falsely labeled “permit to purchase” a firearm requirement and bans standard capacity magazines, which it ...

NY AG James Sends Threatening Letter to Ammunition Sellers

News  

Monday, November 21, 2022

NY AG James Sends Threatening Letter to Ammunition Sellers

In a move that surprised absolutely nobody, anti-gun New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) announced last week that she would expand her assault on the Second Amendment by targeting ammunition sellers. AG James claimed, ...

Maryland: Montgomery County Passes Carry Restrictions

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Maryland: Montgomery County Passes Carry Restrictions

Maryland’s most anti-gun county has continued its tantrum, lashing out against lawful carry in the only way it thinks it can. Yesterday, the Montgomery County Council voted unanimously to pass Bill 21-22E, to remove the exemption ...

Recent ATF Action Shows Need for Suppressor Reform

News  

Monday, March 14, 2022

Recent ATF Action Shows Need for Suppressor Reform

As we reported last week, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) denied approximately 850 Form 1 applications for prospective makers of suppressors on February 28. These denials were apparently made due to ...

Hawaii: Honolulu Seeks to Severely Restrict Carry

Monday, November 28, 2022

Hawaii: Honolulu Seeks to Severely Restrict Carry

Tomorrow, Tuesday, November 29th, the Honolulu City Council will hear an ordinance to prohibit citizens from exercising their right-to-carry in many places. This is an attempt to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court’s NYSRPA v. Bruen ...

Colorado: Broomfield City Moves to Adopt Gun Control Package to Diminish Second Amendment Rights!

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Colorado: Broomfield City Moves to Adopt Gun Control Package to Diminish Second Amendment Rights!

Earlier this week, Broomfield City Council advanced a gun control package to impose on law-abiding citizens.  The second reading will be held in January.  In truth, none of the slew of regulations will stop criminals ...

NRA Achieves Historical Milestone as 25 States Recognize Constitutional Carry

News  

Friday, April 1, 2022

NRA Achieves Historical Milestone as 25 States Recognize Constitutional Carry

Half the country will now enjoy the freedom to carry a handgun for self-defense without a permit from the state thanks to the tireless efforts of men and women of the National Rifle Association. 

ATF Mass Denial of Suppressor Form 1 Applications

News  

Monday, March 7, 2022

ATF Mass Denial of Suppressor Form 1 Applications

On February 28, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) denied approximately 850 Form 1 applications for prospective makers of suppressors. These denials were apparently made due to a change in ATF policy ...

Public Lands Lawsuit Settled—All Lands Remain Open to Hunting

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Public Lands Lawsuit Settled—All Lands Remain Open to Hunting

In 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service expanded hunting and fishing opportunities on more than 2.3 million acres of land. That decision was challenged in federal court, and the NRA, Safari Club International, Sportsmen’s ...

CPRC: FBI Wrong – Armed Citizens Stopped at Least 34% of “Active Shooter” Attacks

News  

Monday, October 17, 2022

CPRC: FBI Wrong – Armed Citizens Stopped at Least 34% of “Active Shooter” Attacks

Recent polling indicates that an increasing number of Americans view the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) with distrust and disfavor. The results of a national survey conducted in August by Rasmussen Reports found that a majority of voters asked ...

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.