Supreme Court to Consider Second Amendment Case Originating in NDNY

Published: September 8, 2021

By Allison Magnarelli, J.D. Candidate 2023, Albany Law School

The Northern District of New York is going back to the Supreme Court.

In N.Y. State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n v. Beach, 818 F. App’x 99 (2d Cir. 2020), the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed a decision and order issued by United States District Judge Brenda K. Sannes of the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York, N.Y. State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n v. Beach, 354 F. Supp. 3d 143 (N.D.N.Y 2018) (Sannes, J.). Judge Sannes granted defendants’ motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, rejecting plaintiffs’ Second Amendment challenge to New York’s requirement that an applicant for a license to carry a concealed handgun outside of the home show that “proper cause exists for the issuance thereof.” N.Y. Penal Law § 400.00(2)(f).

On April 26, 2021, the Supreme Court granted plaintiffs’ petition for a writ of certiorari limited to the following question: whether the State’s denial of petitioners’ applications for concealed-carry licenses for self-defense violated the Second Amendment. The case is captioned New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen. 1

Plaintiffs N.Y State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n (“NYSRPA”), Robert Nash, and Brandon Koch sued the Rensselaer County Licensing Officer, the then-Superintendent of the New York State Police George P. Beach II, and New York State Supreme Court Justice Richard J. McNally, Jr. Plaintiffs claimed that Defendants Beach and McNally violated Plaintiffs Nash’s and Koch’s Second Amendment rights when defendants refused to grant them licenses to carry a firearm outside their homes for self-defense. Plaintiffs Nash and Koch are members of NYSRPA, which is organized to support and defend the right of New York residents to keep and bear arms.

Plaintiffs Nash and Koch were each granted a license to carry a handgun in public, marked “Hunting & Target,” by Defendant Licensing Officer, which designation disallows carrying a firearm outside the home for the purpose of self-defense. Plaintiffs Nash and Koch requested that Defendant McNally remove the “hunting and target” restrictions from their licenses and issue new licenses allowing them to carry firearms for self-defense. Defendant McNally denied both requests because Plaintiffs Nash and Koch “failed to show ‘proper cause’ to carry a firearm in public for the purpose of self-defense, because [they] did not demonstrate a special need for self-defense that distinguished [them] from the general public.” Beach, 354 F. Supp. 3d at 146. Plaintiffs sued.

Defendants moved to dismiss plaintiffs’ claims relying on the binding precedent set by the Second Circuit in Kachalsky v. County of Westchester, 701 F.3d 81 (2d Cir. 2012), which held that “New York’s handgun licensing scheme . . . requiring an applicant to demonstrate ‘proper cause’ to obtain a license to carry a concealed handgun in public” did not violate the Second Amendment. Kachalsky, 701 F.3d at 83, 100-01.

In response, plaintiffs acknowledged their claim was contrary to the precedent in Kachalsky but said they believed that case was wrongly decided for reasons explained by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which held that a “law-abiding citizen’s right to bear common arms must enable the typical citizen to carry a gun.” Wrenn v. District of Columbia, 864 F.3d 650, 655 (D.C. Cir. 2017). However, the Second Circuit found that plaintiff’s’ argument failed under the Second Circuit’s precedents, reaffirming Kachalsky.

The matter is now before the Supreme Court; argument will take place on a date to be determined, sometime during the Court term that begins in October 2021. The last NDNY case to reach the Supreme Court was McDonough v. Smith, decided in June 2019; that case also arose from a controversy in Rensselaer County.

1 The current Superintendent is Kevin P. Bruen.