Greg B. Smith, The City
With former President Donald Trump calling on his supporters to “PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST!!!” his possible indictment, the first test of New York’s revamped law on concealed carry gun permits may take place this week in the streets of Lower Manhattan.
Last week Trump said he expected to be indicted by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who has been presenting a case to a grand jury regarding the former president’s alleged payment to a porn star to cover up an alleged affair.
In his message Saturday on the site Truth Social, Trump wrote that he “WILL BE ARRESTED ON TUESDAY OF NEXT WEEK. PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!”
“THEY’RE KILLING OUR NATION AS WE SIT BACK & WATCH,” he later added. “WE MUST SAVE AMERICA! PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST!!!”
On Monday the NYPD began linking steel barriers around the streets outside Manhattan Criminal Court, where Trump would be arraigned if he is charged. Barriers also went up across the street from the courthouse in front of a small city-owned plaza called Collect Pond Park.
The placement of these barriers indicates the department likely will treat these areas as gun-free zones, based on a law known as the Concealed Carry Improvement Act passed by Albany last year.
The act bars gun owners with permits from carrying their weapons within a long list of specific “sensitive locations” and was drafted in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last June deeming New York’s carry permit laws unconstitutional.
The act specifically designates as gun-free zones all city parks, any “public sidewalk or other public area restricted from general public access for a limited time or special event,” and “any gathering of individuals to collectively express their constitutional right to protest or assemble.”
The NYPD declined to respond to THE CITY’s questions about how they would enforce the “sensitive locations” restrictions if Trump supporters with carry permits show up outside the court with weapons.
Supporters of the Concealed Carry Act said the language is clear, and that they would expect that anyone caught with a licensed gun within the areas designated as a protest zone would face arrest.
“I certainly hope that if people are exercising their First Amendment rights, that they do that in a peaceful and thoughtful fashion,” said Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-The Bronx), one of the act’s key sponsors. “If they don’t, we would count on the NYPD to enforce the law.”
Dinowitz noted that the situation remains unpredictable.
“We don’t know that there are going to be mass demonstrations. I know that’s what Trump is calling for, but I don’t know that people are just robots and will do that,” he added. “We certainly don’t want a repeat of what happened in D.C. on January 6th.”
There have been more than 1,000 arrests in connection with the insurrection that day in 2021, when Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in a failed attempt to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden as president. Violence was pervasive during the melee, with nearly 300 rioters charged with assaulting, impeding or resisting law enforcement officers.
Members of the far-right militia the Oath Keepers were convicted of bringing weapons and ammunition to Washington that day and stashing them in a Virginia hotel used as command center for a “quick reaction force” that could be called upon if necessary, prosecutors said. Several members of the group ultimately stormed the Capitol building.
Amongst those convicted was the group’s leader, Stewart Rhodes. A jury found him guilty of a rarely used charge of seditious conspiracy. He faces 20 years in prison.
A Texas man, Guy Reffit, was convicted in March 2022 of charges including bringing a gun onto the Capitol grounds and obstructing the duties of police officers. He was sentenced to more than seven years in prison.
Law in Court
New York’s designation of firearms-free “sensitive locations” via the Concealed Carry Improvement Act has been contested by gun owners in litigation that is ongoing in New York’s federal courts.
In a June decision written by Justice Clarence Thomas, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled New York’s protocol requiring applicants to demonstrate a need in order to obtain a carry permit violated the Second and Fourteenth Amendments.
In response, Albany legislators quickly cobbled together a law that toughened up the steps needed to get a permit, requiring applicants to provide three years of social media postings, plus four personal references who could testify to the applicant’s “good moral character.”
The law included a long list of generic “sensitive locations,” including courthouses, schools and places of worship, but also some New York City-centric gun-free zones, such as the subway system and Times Square.
Gun owners immediately filed suit upstate, and in October a federal judge sitting in Syracuse issued a temporary restraining order halting some provisions of the law, including the social media review and the designations of some sensitive locations, including Times Square and the subways.
Since then, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals put the judge’s order on hold, keeping the full extent of the law in place. On Monday, lawyers for the gun owners and the State of New York presented their opposing arguments before a three-judge panel of the circuit.
In January, the U.S. Supreme Court declined the gun owners’ request to restrict the law, leaving it in place until the appeal is resolved. Attorneys on both sides expect the litigation to ultimately land back before the Supreme Court.
Until that happens, Jerrold Levine, an attorney who represents applicants seeking gun permits, said it’s pretty clear that any Trump supporter with a carry permit who’s thinking of bringing a weapon to the sidewalks outside Manhattan Criminal Court this week should think twice about it.
“My advice to anybody showing up to any political protest is: Don’t bring a gun,” Levine said. “If the cops bump up against you to see if you have a gun, you’re asking for trouble.”
THE CITY is an independent, nonprofit news outlet dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York.