ALBANY -- The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed a New York gun law that places restrictions on carrying a concealed firearm to remain in effect while legal challenges play out.
In a brief order, the justices rebuffed an emergency request from challengers to the law who say it violates their constitutional right to keep and bear arms. They asked the justices to lift a federal appeals court order that froze a district court decision that invalidated key provisions.
The justices declined to do so. Justice Samuel Alito wrote, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, to say they agreed with their colleagues but stressed they were not ruling on the merits of the law, but simply declining to intervene in the dispute at this juncture. The case is currently before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
"I understand the court's denial today to reflect respect for the Second Circuit's procedures in managing its own docket, rather than expressing any view in the merits of the case," Alito wrote. He urged the lower court to continue to "expedite" the appeal.
The court's order marks the first Second Amendment case to reach the high court since a major Second Amendment decision last summer that expanded gun rights nationwide.
In that case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, the court struck down New York's prior concealed carry gun law. A 6-3 majority said the law prevented law-abiding citizens with "ordinary self-defense needs" from exercising their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms for self-defense.
Just days after the opinion, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, convened a special legislative session to pass a new law called the "Concealed Carry Improvement Act" on July 1. But the new law came under immediate attack as gun owners said that it was in direct "defiance" of the Supreme Court decision and continued to make it too difficult for ordinary citizens to obtain concealed carry permits.
Last fall, a district court blocked key provisions of the new law, related to requirements that an applicant demonstrate "good moral character," provide a list of all former and current social media accounts from the past three years and "sensitive place" restrictions that include health care settings, churches and parks.
In December, however, a federal appeals court put that decision on hold and ordered expedited consideration of the matter with opening briefs due on January 9. Gun owners had asked the Supreme Court to step in in an emergency basis. Their lawyers said that the district court opinion was "carefully designed to limit New York's enforcement of a sweeping gun control statute, enacted in retaliation against New York gun owners" for having prevailed in the Bruen case.
Stephen D. Stamboulieh, a lawyer for the gun owners, said the 184-page opinion was "meticulously tailored" to "uphold the right of New Yorkers to keep and bear arms."
The justices were not considering the merits of the case, only whether to lift the appeal court order pending appeal.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, said in court filings that the district court's opinion was "riddled with errors" and urged the justices to stay out of the dispute and let the appeals court ruling stand. She stressed that the appeals court had expedited consideration of the new law and that "further percolation of the relevant issues in the lower court is needed to inform" the Supreme Court's review.