Judge blocks New York ban on guns in houses of worship

A federal judge temporarily struck down a provision of New York’s gun law Thursday that makes it a felony for a person with a concealed-carry license to possess a firearm at “any place of worship or religious observation.”

The ruling is the latest example of the far reaching impact of the Supreme Court’s decision last term that changed the framework judges must use to evaluate gun regulations.

Justice Clarence Thomas penned the opinion and said that a gun regulation must be justified by demonstrating that the law is “consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.” Last week, a different judge, citing the case New York State Rifle & Pistol v. Bruen, struck down a provision of federal law that bars the obliteration of a serial number on a weapon holding that serial numbers didn’t exist in the founding era.

Thursday, Judge John L. Sinatra Jr. wrote: “In Bruen, the Court made the Second Amendment test crystal clear: regulations in this area is permissible only if the government demonstrates that the regulation is consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of sufficiently analogous regulations.”

Sinatra, a nominee of former President Donald Trump, added: “New York fails that test.”

The challenge was brought by the Rev. Dr. Jimmie Hardaway Jr. and Bishop Larry A. Boyd, two church leaders who said they wish to “exercise their fundamental individual right to bear arms” on church property in case of confrontation to both themselves and their congregants.

Sinatra said that houses of worship are different than polling places, legislative assemblies and other civic locations that are only “sporadically” visited by the general population.

“Places of worship or religious observation are unsecured, spiritual places that members of the public frequent as often as daily as part of day to day life, and encounter vast numbers of other people there — as they do anywhere in public,” he wrote.

The judge said the state was able to put forward a “handful” of regulations from the historical record but he found them to be “one-offs” and “outliers.”

“In sum, the Nation’s history does not countenance such an incursion into the right to keep and bear arms across all places of worship across the state,” Sinatra wrote.

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