This is the fourth installment of a series documenting an ordinary New Yorker attempting to exercise his Second Amendment rights: Part I (license application), Part II (application rejected), Part III (the lawsuit).
After one hundred years of New Yorkers receiving gun licenses if and only if they gain the favor of the NYPD – often through cash payments – it is well past time for the courts of this state to step in and declare the NYPD’s implementation of the “proper cause” requirement to be unconstitutional…
We left off last fall with in Part III, where I filed suit against the NYPD for: 1) requiring that I provide them a “good reason” as to why I should be allowed to bear arms, 2) requiring that I answer entirely irrelevant questions (Have I ever been fired? Have I ever been prescribed a prescription painkiller?), and 3) refusing to fulfill a public records request that would shed light on their supposed process for deciding on license applications.
After receiving service of the complaint, the NYPD filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that: 1) it’s totally constitutional to require a reason before allowing a citizen to exercise his or her rights, 2) that these questions are totally rational to ask of one seeking a gun license, and 3) that releasing records would “interfere with a law enforcement investigation.” Judge Carol R. Edmead of the New York County Supreme Court granted this motion on February 7th, 2017, essentially rubber-stamping the NYPD’s arguments. Judge Edmead required the NYPD to make no showing, for example, as to why they needed to know answers to any of their obviously irrelevant questions, and required the NYPD to present no evidence — not even a sworn declaration — that releasing records would cause legitimate interference with law enforcement.
The most glaring of Judge Edmead’s errors were in 2 parts:
- She conceded that gun restrictions must be subject to “intermediate scrutiny” — that is, they must address an “important” governmental objective by means “substantially” related to that. She then went on to say that she was approving the NYPD’s actions because they were “rational.” But a finding of “rationality” is not the test that she just stated was appropriate. The NYPD’s tomfoolery must not be merely “rational” but be a substantially tight fit — asking not significantly more than is actually required to fulfill the “important” governmental objective of public safety.
- I’m actually somewhat shocked that she granted a motion to dismiss on the public records request given that, in deciding a motion to dismiss (the first opportunity a defendant has to get a case tossed out of court), a judge cannot yet weigh evidence because the plaintiff has not yet had a chance to present evidence. Yet she had no problem finding that releasing the records would definitely interfere with a law enforcement investigation, just because an attorney for the NYPD said so. In doing this, she cut off the case before allowing me a chance to argue the other side.
I immediately filed a notice of appeal, and today I “perfect” the appeal, as they say here in New York, by filing the “record” (a copy of everything that happened in the court below) and my appellate brief — given the requirement of 10 copies of everything (8 for the court and 2 for the opposing party), well over 2,000 pages had to be printed, bound, and delivered to make this happen (links to digital copies below). In it, I detail for the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division the history of corruption in the NYPD’s licensing division. Some highlights from the last few decades, although the corruption goes back 100 years:
- In 1973, NYPD Capt. Salvatore Salmieri was suspended for issuing a gun license to a mafia chauffer. Exhibit C – Narvaez, Alfonzo. “Captain Suspended in Gun Authorization.” New York Times (Nov. 17th, 1973).
- In 1997, the head of the licensing division, Henry Krantz, was disciplined for, again, picking out individuals for whom the usual process did not apply: “Krantz was charged with providing ‘preferential treatment to individuals or entities,’ as well as ‘wrongfully directing’ other cops to grant the favors and failing to supervise his staff.” Exhibit D – Marzuli, John. “Gun Licensing Boss Suspended by NYPD.” Y. Daily News (Jan. 23rd, 1997).
- In 2002, a former head of the licensing division, D.I. Benjamin Petrofsky, was accused of (and later demoted for) helping famous rock-and-roll musicians receive a pistol permit in exchange for VIP concert tickets and after-party admission. Exhibit E – Messing, Philip. “NYPD Under Fire in Aerosmith ‘Got a Gun’ Scandal.” New York Post (Nov. 24th, 2002). He allegedly went as far as to fingerprint the musicians inside Madison Square Garden. Wiederhorn, Jon. “Janie’s Got A Gun Permit? Aerosmith Flap Lands Cop in Hot Water.” MTV (2002).
But of course, you’ve all probably heard of the more recent scandal that former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was investigating before Trump fired him:
According to court papers, the trading of gun licenses for bribes stretched from at least 2010 to 2016. Exhibit H – Neumeister, Larry. “Former NYC police, lawyer arrested in gun licensing probe.” Associated Press (Apr. 25th, 2017). In return for approval of gun licenses without meeting New York’s qualifications, D.I. Endall’s officers “solicited and accepted food, alcohol, parties, dancers and prostitutes.” Id. Several of the gun licenses bought through the corrupt members of D.I. Endall’s office caught in this sting went to street vigilantes who were known for beating a man on the street so badly he is permanently blind in one eye. In the meantime, the application by Corbett, who the NYPD concedes had no character issues, was denied.
Deputy Inspector Endall was, of course, the NYPD licensing division commander who denied my application not 3 weeks before being transferred to desk duty — err, lower desk duty — because several of his subordinates were arrested for literally taking hookers and cash for gun licenses.
I do hope the Appellate Division takes to heart that they are literally taking a blind eye to corruption if they do not take action. From here, I expect it to take several months to get an opinion from them. If it’s unfavorable, I can then ask the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, to hear the case, before moving onto the federal courts.
So “Is It *Really* Impossible To Get A Gun License in NYC?” Not sure yet, but so far:
- Money Spent: $1,365
- Time Spent: ~80 hours
Will look forward to updating with Part V as the Appellate Division takes a stand.
Corbett v. City of New York IV – Appellate Brief (.pdf – 7MB)
Corbett v. City of New York IV – Record on Appeal (.pdf – 38MB)
UPDATE: Mere hours before I was to file this brief, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit invalidated D.C.’s “good reason” requirement for carrying firearms. This is a major win, and so I updated my brief and re-printed it. The above documents now reflect that change.
“Jon Corbett is a civil rights advocate known for filing the first lawsuit against the deployment of TSA nude body scanners, as well as defeating the body scanners live in ‘How to Get ANYTHING Through TSA Nude Body Scanners.’ Presently a law student, he continues to advocate for travel and privacy rights. Twitter: @_JonCorbett, Web:https://professional-troublemaker.com/“
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