ALBANY, NY—Recently, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms and over two dozen churches filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the so-called Concealed Carry Improvement Act (CCIA), a New York gun control law passed in July 2022, violates the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. The CCIA prohibits most law-abiding New Yorkers from carrying concealed firearms in churches and other houses of worship.
Yesterday, in the case of Hardaway v. Nigrelli, Judge John L. Sinatra Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York issued a temporary restraining order that bars law enforcement agencies from enforcing the CCIA against otherwise lawful gun owners who carry concealed firearms in houses of worship. The Hardaway lawsuit was brought by two Buffalo-area Black pastors seeking to defend themselves and their congregants from potential racially-motivated attacks. Their complaint cites the 2015 mass shooting at a Charleston, S.C. church that killed nine people. Judge Sinatra’s ruling is a temporary one; it will remain in effect pending a hearing and a decision on the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction.
Attorney David Sieling of Brenna Boyce PLLC, who represents New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms in its lawsuit, commented, “Yet another federal court has confirmed that the state of New York does not have the power to disarm law-abiding citizens in churches and other places of worship.” Sieling continued, “The Court reminded New York lawmakers that ‘[f]or all of history until now, the right to carry [firearms] for self-defense encompassed New York places of worship.’ The growing number of rulings against the CCIA is not a surprise. The Constitution explicitly protects both the right to assemble for worship and the right to self-defense with a legal firearm.”
Rev. Jason J. McGuire, the executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms and a plaintiff in the multi-church lawsuit, said, “New York’s churches and pastors did not seek out conflict with the state. Litigation was a last, necessary resort for law-abiding church members that simply wanted to protect their families and fellow worshippers. People of faith have been exercising their Second Amendment rights in houses of worship for centuries. Present-day politics shouldn’t interfere with those rights. New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms will continue to push back against the CCIA until the right of self-protection is restored in churches across our great state.”
New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms is a statewide public policy organization that represents New York’s evangelical Christian community.