Politics Aside: Are NYC’s gun laws unconstitutional?

After years of complaints by all but the most ardent anti-gun activists, New York City’s insanely strict gun laws are finally being exposed for the unconstitutional mess they are after two separate incidents in December in which tourists, with all the proper permits from their home states, were arrested for possessing firearms.

In the first case, a man visiting from California was boarding a plane at LaGuardia and traveling with a legally-licensed gun that was being transported according to federal aviation law. When he declared the gun that was in his checked baggage, he was arrested for illegally carrying a firearm in NYC.

A week later, a woman visiting from Tennessee, with a legal carry permit from her home state, was arrested while visiting the 9/11 memorial. Upon seeing a sign that said “no guns allowed” she approached a police officer to inquire where she could check the .32 caliber pistol she carried in her purse.

Both of them are facing the possibility of serious jail time, stiff fines and huge legal bills, even while making every effort to comply with the law as understood. This is so clearly an egregious application of our overly restrictive gun laws that even Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver has called for leniency and a review of NY’s gun laws to make sure they make sense. When NY’s biggest industry is tourism, we can’t jeopardize our standing as one of the nation’s top attractions.

Putting aside the constitutional issues for a moment, we should have reciprocity with the other 49 states for visiting gun owners. We have reciprocity in dozens of other areas that are not even rights, but privileges. In NY, we recognize drivers’ licenses from any state, marriage contracts (including same- sex marriages), and all sort of other arrangements. Imagine if we arrested people driving through the state for not getting a license here, or if we refused to allow a spouse to visit their loved one in the hospital because we refused to recognize a marriage contract from another state.

That is the equivalent of what we do in NY. In fact, NYC’s laws are so much more restrictive than those even at the state level, that a hunter living on Long Island could be arrested while driving upstate with his rifles to go hunting.

We need to remember that the right to own a gun is protected by the constitution. The idea that every visitor should understand NY’s byzantine and oppressive gun laws is ludicrous. We should respect those that want to exercise their second amendment rights while making every effort to comply with basic, common sense gun laws. That includes for NY citizens as well, but that is another issue.

Robert Hornak is a Queens-based political consultant, blogger, and an active member of the Queens Republican Party. 

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