A state judge refused Wednesday to block New York’s tough new gun law challenged in a lawsuit by more than 1,000 people who claim it violates the state constitution because it was passed too quickly and restricts the rights of a citizen militia.
Justice Thomas McNamara said case law by New York’s top court prevents him from reviewing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s justification for pushing the bill quickly through the Legislature instead of waiting the three days usually required. Cuomo used a “message of necessity” to skirt the waiting period.
Robert Schulz, who brought the suit, said he will ask the Court of Appeals to review the precedent, claiming Cuomo’s emergency justification was false.
“I’m a trial-level court and a trial-level judge and I’m constrained to follow the law as set forth by the Court of Appeals,” McNamara said from the bench. “It is clear that judicial intervention, judicial review of a message of necessity, is not allowed.”
“They key word there is facts. Facts have to be true,” Shulz argued before McNamara.
Schulz argued that the legislative deal was reached between Cuomo and legislative leaders, who accepted his message of necessity without having it read aloud, and passed the legislation with little time to read it and no public debate.
Assistant Attorney General James McGowan said the suit’s focus is assault weapons, but the law does many things, including requiring federal background checks for private gun sales, setting new registration requirements and enacting tougher penalties for gun crimes.
“In some respects it’s exceedingly offensive to suggest there’s no immediate need for the passage of this bill,” he said, citing mass shootings last year that involved assault weapons.
Schultz also argues that the 1,256 plaintiffs’ obligation to defend the state and nation was violated by the new law. They have the right, specified in New York’s Civil Rights Law, “to be armed with weaponry suitable for use by the militia in warfare and for the general defense of the community,” he wrote.
McGowan countered that New York has regulated firearms and related materials for a century.
“Obviously the Legislature could, and did, determine that possession of certain semi-automatic assault weapons and high-capacity magazines was outside the ambit of the right to bear arms the Legislature granted in Civil Rights Law,” he wrote.