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NY Public Defenders Argue SCOTUS Ruling Should Block Gun Charges

In dozens of motions across New York City, public defenders are arguing that a Supreme Court ruling last month that vastly expanded gun rights has left the government without a case against their clients, reports the New York Times. The court struck down a New York law on the public carrying of handguns. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the Second Amendment guarantees a general right to carry handguns publicly. That, the defenders have argued, renders New York laws that criminalize firearm possession — and the resulting charges against their clients — unconstitutional. Their arguments mark the opening of what is likely to be a protracted legal campaign to use the Supreme Court ruling to the benefit of those charged with carrying guns in New York City. Experts say the arguments should not be dismissed. “The Supreme Court case for sure has shifted the ground,” said Steve Zeidman of the City University of New York. “The question is, what’s its application to the day-to-day arrest, prosecution and adjudication in New York City and New York State. And, frankly, across the country.” So far, judges have been unswayed. The Supreme Court, one New York judge wrote, “did not magically decriminalize the acts of individuals who chose to violate state law by arming themselves and carrying and concealing whatever firearms they wanted to conceal, whenever and wherever they wanted to do so, without bothering to apply for a license.”


The flurry of motions attests to the way the high court’s decision shifted the ground on gun laws even in the most liberal of cities. The Legal Aid Society's chief criminal defense lawyer, Tina Luongo, said, “As we have always done, we will advance all valid and available legal arguments in defense of our clients and continue to urge policymakers to focus on real solutions to gun violence, which lie outside of the criminal legal system.” Public defender organizations sometimes make unexpected alliances, as with gun rights organizations in the Supreme Court case. Some prosecutors and elected officials say that the court's decision left the state with the rights to enforce reasonable gun regulations. “More guns on our streets leads to more violence,” said the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg. “New York’s strong gun regulations and strict licensing regime have been indispensable to keeping us safe, and it is imperative we uphold those laws.”