Churches File Federal Suit Against State Gun Law

A Salamanca church is among the more than two dozen that are challenging the state’s Concealed Carry Improvement Act in federal court.

Pastor Eric Hice of the Center Street Baptist Church in Salamanca is among the plaintiffs being supported by New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms. The Rev. Jason J. McGuire, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms executive director, said many churches have begun implementing volunteer security teams in the wake of church shootings around the country in recent years. Those teams would be against the law under the state’s Concealed Carry Improvement Act.

“In an ideal world, churches and congregants could focus on worshiping the Lord and loving their neighbors without concerning themselves with matters of safety and security. Unfortunately, the reality of church shootings in the U.S. reminds us that this is not an ideal world. Some churches find it necessary to allow law-abiding persons to carry firearms during services so that their congregations are protected in the event of a church attack. The CCIA takes this decision out of their hands, and that is unacceptable. In response, churches across New York have banded together to challenge the CCIA in federal court,” McGuire said last week.

U.S. District Court Judge Glenn Suddaby struck down key elements of the law last week, but Attorney General Letitia James formally filed appeal papers on Monday. Suddaby had ruled the state can’t ban people from carrying guns in New York City’s subway system or Times Square, though Suddaby said it did have a right to exclude guns from certain other locations, including schools. Several of the state’s new licensing rules went too far, he wrote, including one that required applicants to be of “good moral character,” and another that made applicants turn over information about their social media accounts.

“Today my office filed a motion to keep the entire Concealed Carry Improvement Act in effect and continue to protect communities as the appeals process moves forward,” James said. “This common-sense gun control legislation is critical in our state’s effort to reduce gun violence. We will continue to fight for the safety of everyday New Yorkers.”

The churches’ federal lawsuit alleges they are being uniquely singled out by the Concealed Carry Improvement Act because the state is denying them the right to effective self-defense. The lawsuit cites a 35.8% increase in attacks on churches, synagogues, temples and mosques between 2014 and 2018, according to FBI data.

While McGuire and the other churches wrote in their filing they are aware of other legal challenges, they aim only as much relief from the federal court as is necessary to exercise “their constitutional and natural right to self-defense while also exercising their Constitutional right to worship free of discrimination or prejudice.”

“The Supreme Court of the United States found one New York gun control law unconstitutional earlier this year. The passage of the CCIA strongly suggests that Gov. Hochul and the Legislature have not learned their lesson. At New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, we stand with New York’s churches and against this unconstitutional law. Congregants do not forfeit their right to defend themselves and their families when they enter a house of worship,” McGuire said.

Source: “Churches File Federal Suit Against State Gun Law,”