To some defenders, gun ruling could right a racial wrong

Jun 24, 2022, 4:36 PM | Updated: Jun 25, 2022, 6:00 am
Jay Walker, third from left, co-founder of Gays Against Guns, speaks into a megaphone during a rall...

Jay Walker, third from left, co-founder of Gays Against Guns, speaks into a megaphone during a rally against the Supreme Court decision striking down New York's gun law, Thursday, June 23, 2022, in New York. When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down New York’s tight restrictions on who can carry a handgun, condemnation erupted from liberal leaders and activists. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

(AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

NEW YORK (AP) — When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down New York’s tight restrictions on who can carry a handgun, condemnation erupted from liberal leaders and activists.

But some public defenders, often allies of progressive activists, praised the court’s ruling, saying gun-permitting rules like New York’s have long been a license for racial discrimination.

By making it a crime for most people to carry a handgun, New York and a few other states have ended up putting people — overwhelmingly people of color — behind bars for conduct that would be legal elsewhere, the defense lawyers complain.

“New York’s gun licensing regulations have been arbitrarily and discriminatorily applied, disproportionately ensnaring the people we represent, the majority of whom are from communities of color,” said The Legal Aid Society, which represents criminal defendants who can’t afford their own lawyers.

The court’s decision Thursday concerned a century-old law that said New Yorkers seeking gun licenses had to show an unusual threat to their safety if they wanted to carry a handgun in public.

Simply wanting a gun for personal defense was not enough. And the police departments or judicial magistrates were given wide discretion to decide who needs and deserves to carry a gun.

Reasons could include being a retired law enforcement officer or working as an armed guard or in a business that transports valuables. A few other states have similar standards.

The Supreme Court, in a majority opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas, said New York’s system violated Americans’ Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms.”

New York’s governor and New York City’s mayor, both Democrats, quickly began eying other potential guardrails for carrying guns. Gov. Kathy Hochul plans to convene with state lawmakers at the end of the month to push for new gun safety legislation.

Ideas include banning them in certain areas, such as subways, or requiring weapons training to get a permit. The officials argue that it’s perilous to make it easier to carry a gun. They envision more arguments turning into deadly confrontations at a time when the nation is already beset by gun violence.

Some civil rights leaders agree. The Rev. Al Sharpton called the Supreme Court ruling “devastating,” and the National Urban League and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said it was particularly so for Black people.

In a friend-of-the-court brief, the two groups pointed to statistics showing that Black Americans, particularly Black male teens and young men, die from gunfire at a higher rate than do whites or the general population.

“If the Supreme Court actively were seeking out a way to make the nation more volatile and dangerous, it could not have devised a more damaging scenario,” league President Marc Morial said after the ruling.

But attorneys from nearly a dozen New York public defender agencies and organizations cited other statistics.

Black people faced 78% of felony gun possession charges in the state last year, while making up 18% of its population — compared to 7% of prosecutions and 70% of the population for non-Hispanic whites, the defenders said in their own friend-of-the-court brief. Over 90% of people arrested in New York City on charges of possessing a loaded firearm are Black and/or Latino, according to the filing, although non-Hispanic whites comprise nearly 1/3 of the city population.

The defenders argue that the numbers are rooted in a history of racist anxieties about racial and ethnic minorities having firearms and are furthered by an “expensive and onerous discretionary licensing process.”

According to New York Police Department statistics, about 3,500 civilians in the city of 8.5 million have “business carry” licenses, and another 2,000 guards have permits to carry guns while working. About 15,000 retired law enforcement officers have a type of license that’s specific to them. The department didn’t provide a breakdown of licensees by race.

“While white people throughout the nation amass firearm arsenals even as hobbies, Black and Latinx New Yorkers are arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned for simply possessing a single pistol for self-defense,” several of the brief’s authors wrote in an October article on Scotusblog, a legal news site.

One defendant was a working father and college student who carried a gun to a neighborhood where he’d been slashed in the face; he ended up serving eight months in jail and dropping out of college, according to the defenders. Another man contracted COVID-19 and died last fall while jailed on $100,000 bail in a case alleging he had a gun in his car, which he denied.

Another defendant, a military veteran who served in Iraq and legally owned a gun in her home state of Texas, was arrested for having the weapon in her car in New York. She was jailed for weeks before making bail and was subjected to a child-neglect proceeding that kept her away from her two small boys for a year. The criminal case was eventually dismissed.

“I lost everything: my job, my car, my home and my kids,” she said in the court filing.

In Chicago, Cook County Public Defender Sharone Mitchell Jr. has become convinced that Illinois’ firearms laws — which are strict but don’t include a New York-style “proper cause” standard — are doing less to keep guns off streets than to put people in prison. A quarter of his caseload involves no other charge but gun possession.

“We have a gun problem, full stop. But failed policies are part of the problem,” Mitchell said in a statement after the Supreme Court ruling in the New York case. “These laws facilitate racially targeted enforcement that sends thousands of Black people to prison because they do not have or cannot get the required licenses, not because they’ve been accused of harming someone.”

The high court indicated that states still can require licenses and can impose some conditions, and New York and other states with similar laws will surely look closely at what leeway they still have.

But some public defenders suggest lawmakers should take a broader view of gun safety.

“Regulation and criminalization are not our only options,” said Corey Stoughton, a Legal Aid Society attorney who focuses on legislative and regulatory reform. She points to such approaches as violence intervention programs.

“If we want to reduce guns, we need to make people feel safe,” Stoughton said. “And we have ways that are positive approaches to invest in our communities and make people feel safer.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

murders...
Associated Press

Renton man gets 10 years in prison in drug trafficking case

A federal judge has sentenced a Renton, Washington man to 10 years in prison for his role in a violent drug distribution ring, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle.
21 hours ago
This undated photo provided on Nov. 27, 2022, by the North Korean government shows North Korean lea...
Associated Press

Kim’s daughter called ‘most beloved’ child in 2nd appearance

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea’s leader has taken his daughter to a meeting with missile scientists in her second public appearance, in which state media called her Kim Jong Un’s “most beloved” child, deepening outside debate over whether she is being primed as his successor. The daughter, believed to Kim’s second child named […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

Shooting in Atlanta neighborhood kills 1 person, wounds 5

ATLANTA (AP) — A shooting in an Atlanta neighborhood Saturday evening killed one person and wounded five, police said. The Atlanta Police Department said several shots were fired during a dispute around 8 p.m. on the 17th Street bridge in Atlantic Station, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Police said the shooting occurred after a group of […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

Saturday’s Scores

PREP FOOTBALL= WIAA Playoff= Class 4A= Semifinal= Kennedy 42, Emerald Ridge 28 Lake Stevens 42, Graham-Kapowsin 28 Class 3A= Semifinal= Eastside Catholic 35, O’Dea 28, 2OT Yelm 28, Bellevue 27 Class 2A= Semifinal= Lynden 41, Enumclaw 14 North Kitsap 29, W. F. West 22 Class 2B= Semifinal= Napavine 49, Jenkins Jr/Sr High (Chewelah) 6 Okanogan […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

Police: 1 killed, 3 shot breaking into Georgia home

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. (AP) — An 18-year-old was killed and three others were injured Friday in a shooting after they attempted to break into a DeKalb County home, police said. Officers arrived around 5 p.m. and found three people — a 23-year-old, 18-year-old and 15-year-old — who had been shot, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. All […]
21 hours ago
A crime scene is taped off at New Season Church in Nashville, Tenn., on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. Me...
Associated Press

Drive-by shooting injures 2 at funeral at Nashville church

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A drive-by shooting in Nashville on Saturday injured two people as they and others were walking out of church from the funeral of a woman who was fatally shot earlier this month, according to police. Metro Nashville Police Department spokesperson Don Aaron said the afternoon shooting occurred outside New Season Church, […]
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
To some defenders, gun ruling could right a racial wrong