New York lawmakers to ban guns in Times Square, start process to enshrine abortion rights

New York lawmakers to ban guns in Times Square, start process to enshrine abortion rights

New York would add Times Square to the list of “sensitive places” where guns will be banned under a bill lawmakers are set to pass Friday in response to the Supreme Court’s recent concealed carry decision.

gov. Kathy Hochul formally introduced the bill around 3 am Friday, with lawmakers set to approve it later in the day.

Last week, Hochul summoned the Legislature back to Albany for an extraordinary session Thursday, in which they were expected to pass measures meant to dull the impact of the court’s ruling last week, which made it easier to obtain a permit to legally carry a firearm in public.

But things didn’t go quite as planned: Hochul and legislative leaders spent much of the day haggling over the specifics. By 1 am, the state Senate called it quits, the Assembly followed suit, and they agreed to give it another go Friday.

Less than two hours later, Hochul formally introduced the Concealed Carry Improvement Act – signaling a deal had been finalized. Among other things, it would create a lengthy list of places where firearms are banned, including public transit, educational institutions, street fairs and “the area commonly known as Times Square,” according to the bill.

The bill would also alter the state’s permitting laws to require at least 16 hours of training for concealed carry applicants, while making clear an applicant could be denied if they have been charged with assault, menacing or similar crimes. The legislation would also require a permit holder to recertify every three years, and to turn over the names of their social media accounts as part of a background check.

It would also make it a felony to carry a firearm onto private property unless the property owner has explicitly allowed it. For business owners, that means hanging signage signaling concealed carry is allowed on the property.

Also overnight, Hochul took the formal step of adding to the Legislature’s agenda for the extraordinary session, issuing a proclamation that opens the door for lawmakers to start the process of enshrining abortion rights in the state constitution.

Democratic lawmakers had tried to pass a measure known as the Equality Amendment in early June before ending their annual session at the Capitol. If approved by voters, it would have created greater protections against discrimination based on things like sex, gender identity and pregnancy outcomes.

Talks on the amendment stalled, and lawmakers left Albany without taking it up. But they revived negotiations after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last week, and ultimately finalized an agreement overnight.

The agreed-upon amendment would make clear you can’t discriminate against someone based on their ethnicity, national origin, age, disability or sex, adding to existing protections based on race, color or creed.

The amendment makes clear it would apply to “pregnancy, pregnancy outcomes, and reproductive healthcare and autonomy” — language meant to cover abortion and contraception.

If approved by lawmakers this year and next, the constitutional measure would then be put to voters for final approval next year.

In a statement at 2:36 am, Hochul suggested a deal on the issue was within reach. By 9 am, the final language was made public.

“We will enact legislation to strengthen our laws on concealed carry weapons, and building on our nation-leading protections for abortion patients and providers, New York State will take an unprecedented step toward enshrining the fundamental right to abortion access into our state Constitution,” she said.

The Legislature was due back at 9 am Friday and is expected to put the gun measure and abortion-related amendment to a vote at some point during the day.

Hochul and Democratic leaders say they have tried to craft the concealed carry bill in a way that will withstand further judicial scrutiny, though gun-rights groups are certain to challenge some or all of the restrictions. On Wednesday, Hochul said she is willing to “go up to the line” of constitutionality but not cross it.

Republicans have signaled they intend to oppose the measure, with Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt suggesting the state should do more to crack down on those who illegally obtain firearms.

“New York already has the strictest gun laws in the country,” he tweeted Thursday. “I will not accept passing more laws that fail to address the source of the problem as the only solution.”

In his written opinion, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas acknowledged that states can ban guns in “sensitive places” like government buildings and schools. But the list of sensitive places in New York’s new gun bill seems to take an expansive view.

Guns would be banned in zoos, libraries, playgrounds, child care and health care facilities. They would also be prohibited in homeless shelters, bars and a wide array of performance venues, including theaters, stadiums, racetracks, museums, amusement parks, casinos and any concerts.

Asked Wednesday if there were any public places where carrying a firearm would still be allowed, Hochul said: “Probably some streets.”

Once signed into law, the Concealed Carry Improvement Act would take effect Sept. 1.

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