Public Defenders vs. Gun Control –

In this fall, the U.S. Supreme Court will listen to oral arguments New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. BruenThe challenge to the constitutionality of state laws that require that concealed carry licenses be granted to anyone who wants to use a handgun to conceal in public must first be proven to a local official.

Similar to other cases involving hot-button topics, it has been a big case. Amicus Curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs. Many of the briefs filed in July will not have an impact on the final ruling. However, one brief that was filed in July could have some impact.

This brief is a collaboration of several public defense attorney organizations including Brooklyn Defender Services, Bronx Defenders and Black Attorneys of Legal Aid. The Supreme Court should overturn New York’s gun licensing program. They claim it is in violation of the Second Amendment, and it discriminates against black and Hispanic self-defense users.

According to groups, each year they represented hundreds of poor people who New York charges with criminal offenses for exercising their right. Our clients see the Second Amendment as a legal fiction because New York has a licensing requirement. New York’s licensing requirement makes it worse. Nearly all the clients New York charges for exercising their Second Amendment rights, are Hispanic and Black. The brief stated that this “is not an accident”. New York’s firearm licensing laws were enacted to make gun ownership illegal for racial or ethnic minorities. Its enforcement by the police and prosecutors continues to have that effect today.”

The public defenders groups claim that New York’s scheme had predictable “brutal” results for clients. They have been “stopped, questioned, and frisked,” “forcibly removed” from their homes, locked up “in dirty and violent jails and prisons,” and “deprived….of their jobs, children, livelihoods, and ability to live in this country,” all “because our clients exercised a constitutional right.”

These arguments could resonate with Justice Sonia Sotomayor who is the Court’s most vocal critic of excessive police and other law enforcement abuses. A Supreme Court victory against New York’s gun control program would be an important win for both the Second Amendment and criminal justice reform, as the briefs of the public defenders clearly show.