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25 NY churches sue state over gun ban in houses of worship

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul at the New York State Association for Affordable Housing Conference in New York City on May 19, 2022. (Kevin P. Coughlin / Office of Governor Kathy Hochul)
October 11, 2022

A group of upstate New York churches are taking the state to court over a new law that bans firearms from houses of worship.

Twenty-five churches and the nonprofit New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms filed a federal lawsuit on Oct. 4 challenging part of a New York gun control law that restricts where gun owners can carry their firearms.

Defendants in the case include Kevin Bruen, head of the state police, and district attorneys from each church’s county.

The ban on firearms in houses of worship is contained in New York’s Concealed Carry Improvement Act, which was signed into law in July by Governor Kathy Hochul.

The law prohibits weapons in “sensitive locations” including schools, restaurants, hospitals and “any place of worship or religious observation.” 

Under the law, firearms can be carried in sensitive locations only by law enforcement officers and state-certified security guards.

“Not every church across the state of New York has, or has the ability to hire, professional security teams,” Rev. Jason McGuire, executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedom, told WTLX News19. “We’re looking at, oftentimes, trained volunteer security teams, and the law does not allow for that.”

Hate incidents at churches, synagogues, temples and mosques increased 65.13% from 2014 to 2019, according to FBI data.

Last week, a judge temporarily blocked the law’s bans on guns in other “sensitive locations,” as well as other provisions, deeming them unconstitutional and unenforceable.

Judge Glenn T. Suddaby found that there should be “an exception for those persons who have been tasked with the duty to keep the peace” at the place of worship.

Attorney General Letitia James filed a motion Monday attempting to reverse the judge’s temporary restraining order.

The Concealed Carry Improvement Act was the state’s attempt to maintain strict measures against public gun carrying that were hamstrung by the Supreme Court in June, according to the New York Times.

The Supreme Court ruled that New York’s requirement for concealed carry applicants to show “proper cause” to obtain a license was unconstitutional.

Open carrying of handguns is completely illegal in New York.