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Justice Thomas to hear New York gun rights lawsuit

A pair of New York gun shop owners filed the lawsuit, arguing that the new background requirements would impact their business and deprive lawful gun owners of their Second Amendment rights.

Published: September 27, 2023 11:00pm

Updated: September 28, 2023 9:57pm

(The Center Square) -

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas will consider a lawsuit by Second Amendment groups challenging New York's strict concealed carry firearm laws.

Thomas has scheduled a conference with the full court on Oct. 6 to weigh a challenge to a provision of New York's Concealed Carry Improvement Act on background checks for ammunition purchases, which went into effect a few weeks ago, according to the court's calendar.

A pair of New York gun shop owners filed the lawsuit, arguing that the new background requirements would impact their business and deprive lawful gun owners of their Second Amendment rights.

The plaintiffs had also argued that the state isn't equipped to take over the responsibility of conducting online background checks on gun sales from the existing federal system.

Under the new rules, firearm buyers will be required to pay background check fees — $2.50 for the sale of ammunition and $9 for guns — to help fund the new background checks program overseen by the New York State Police Department.

The law, signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul in July 2022, sought to close "loopholes" in private gun sales by tightening firearm licensing and sales rules to make it harder to purchase a gun. It also defined private properties as “restricted” areas where carrying a gun is illegal.

The changes were approved in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision in the N.Y. State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen case, which struck down a New York law requiring applicants to show “proper cause” to get a permit to carry a firearm.

The gun dealers filed a request to the Supreme Court to block the state's new firearm law regulations requiring background checks for private firearms and ammunition sales from going into effect. But Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor rejected the 11th-hour appeal to block the state's new background check system, and the law went into effect on Sept. 13.

Shortly after, the plaintiffs filed an emergency appeal to Thomas, who voted with the court's conservative majority in last year's 6-3 decision striking down New York's concealed carry law.

Hochul, a Democrat who pushed the new restrictions to the state Legislature last year, blasted the legal challenge and said she believes the law will survive.

"I know the far-right is focused on placating the MAGA extremists," she posted on social media. "I'm focused on protecting New Yorkers."

Her statement drew a sharp rebuke from Senate Republican Minority Leader Rob Ortt, who said the Democratic governor's gun control policies have made the state "less safe."

"If @GovKathyHochul was focused on the safety of NYers she would focus on ending pro-criminal policies (cashless bail, less is more, discovery) and less on disarming law abiding NYers," he posted.

State Assemblyman Robert Smullen, R-Johnstown, was among New York GOP lawmakers who praised Thomas' decision to intervene in the legal challenge and said he hopes the high court will "fully review the consequences of these unconstitutional gun laws on lawful gun owners."

"This heavy-handed legislation has over-complicated the state’s system for conducting background checks, and it will leave irreparable damage in its wake for New York citizens who are simply exercising their 2nd Amendment rights," he said in a statement.