The Supreme Court has ruled that New York’s law governing the carrying of handguns is unconstitutional, but the law is not yet off the books.
The case will now be sent back to a lower court — the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit — which is expected to send it back to Federal District Court in New York, said Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who specializes in constitutional law and gun policy.
That court is likely to give officials in New York a grace period, instead of striking the law down immediately, Mr. Winkler said.
“We have seen this happen in the past where the courts have given lawmakers some time so they can adopt a law,” he said. In this case, he added the alternative would be to “have everyone carry guns on the streets of New York.”
New York officials rushed to explain that complicated procedure to the public.
New York City’s police commissioner, Keechant Sewell, cautioned New Yorkers that nothing had changed yet and warned, “If you carry a gun illegally in New York City you will be arrested.”
In six other states, the laws governing the public carrying of handguns, which are similar to New York’s, are likely to be challenged immediately. The challenges will almost certainly be successful, given the Supreme Court’s ruling, and judges in those states — California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey — will decide whether officials will have a grace period to pass new laws.
Those laws will not be permitted to bar the carrying of handguns in entire cities. But certain “sensitive places” will almost certainly be subject to restrictions, such as schools, government buildings and polling places. And cities and states are likely to be inventive in designating locations as sensitive.
Joseph Blocher, a Second Amendment expert at Duke University School of Law, said that hard questions would arise when such sensitive locations were densely concentrated.
He explained that officials could conceivably bar the carrying of guns from within 100 feet of a school or a government building, and that adding such buffer zones could make it so that a substantial part of a city is off-limits to the concealed carrying of handguns. But he said that whether such restrictions would pass muster with the courts was “an open question.”