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 Jonathan Corbett, Civil Rights Attorney

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Court Denies Preliminary Injunction Against New N.Y. Gun License Requirements

In July, I filed suit against New York’s new social media, references, and training requirements for gun license applicants, created after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state’s policy of allowing gun rights only to those whom the state believed had shown a “good reason” to exercise them. Four months later, the court today orally denied a motion to preliminarily enjoin those requirements. (A written opinion will be forthcoming.)

As to the social media and references requirement, the state argued that these requirements will not apply to those who submitted their applications before the law took effect, as I had done, thus negating my “standing” to sue. That is, the law doesn’t directly affect me (yet), so I can’t challenge it (yet). To be fair, assuming the government is going to process my pending application without giving effect to those requirements, the court got this one right. I am skeptical that they will process my application in this way, but the claims can be re-asserted if and when they “change their mind.”

As to the training requirement, the government needed to demonstrate a historical analog — in other words, a tradition of similar restrictions from the time the Second and Fourteenth Amendments were passed. The government argued that since everyone had to be in the state militia, and the militia had substantial training requirements, there is indeed an analog. The court was persuaded; however, on this issue, I believe the court made a mistake. Militia service and training requirements were not connected with gun ownership. One who was not male, or in the right age range, was not required to serve, but also not precluded from having a gun. Neither was one who simply disobeyed the service requirement. The Supreme Court has been clear that the rights conferred by the Second Amendment are not connected to militia membership, yet here we are with yet another ruling trying to connect them.

I intend to appeal the decision on the training requirement to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. As almost 8 months has passed since I filed a license application without any indication of processing, I also intend to add a claim of unconstitutional delay to the case. I know that, for many, this ruling is disappointing, but it is a step towards the ultimate resolution, and sets up a scenario where the Second Circuit either upholds a law based on re-connecting the right to militia membership — something that the Supreme Court plainly will not tolerate — or fixes this issue. And, regarding the social media and references requirement, if you or someone you know has applied for a carry license in New York after August 2022 and they would like representation, please be in touch and perhaps we can get these issues back on the board sooner rather than later.

Court Asked for Preliminary Injunction of Social Media Disclosure Requirement for Gun License Applicants

Docket with Motion for Preliminary InjunctionOn July 11th, 2022, I sued Gov. Kathy Hochul over her new law designed to disenfranchise New Yorkers of their right to bear arms in the face of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that they may not deny that right to the ordinary citizen. This law, S51001, requires gun license applicants to disclose all of their social media accounts, to gather four references, and to complete 18 hours of training. By my estimates, this raises the cost of obtaining a license to over $1,100 and about 35 hours of one’s time, not to mention the cost of missing work to make that happened. The intent is obvious: make it so difficult to get a license that the ordinary citizen, once again, is unable exercise their rights.

My case was assigned U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield and not much has happened, other than the government asking for a lengthy extension of the time they have to respond, but today I got the ball moving by asking Judge Schofield to issue a preliminary injunction against these requirements:

Law-abiding citizens will be forced to relinquish their right to anonymous speech and Internet privacy, while the next mass shooter simply lies on the application and omits any incriminating social media accounts. Diligent investigators, of course, may find incriminating social media anyway, but they could do the same just as well without this law. In other words, the law only serves to punish law-abiding citizens who will be honest on their applications, with no benefit to public safety.

The government’s response will be due in 2 weeks, and the answer to their complaint (with extension) in 3 weeks. I have only some faith that the motion will be granted, but the nice thing about preliminary injunctions is they are immediately appealable. I would imagine the government would appeal if they win, so either way we’ll be in the U.S. Court of Appeals before end of year.


N.Y. Gov. Hochul Sued Over Requirement to Hand Over Social Media Accounts to Apply for Gun License

For the last century, New York’s “proper cause” requirement required gun license applicants to demonstrate a greater need than the average citizen in order to carry a gun. When last month, the U.S. Supreme Court decided New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, 597 U.S. ____ (2022), explicitly holding that the Constitution provides an individual right to carry firearms outside of the home and that the state may not ban the ordinary, law-abiding citizen from doing so, it overturned that proper cause requirement and made clear that the states cannot seek to disenfranchise its citizens en masse.

In response, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul convened a special session of the legislature to try to keep guns out of the hands of as many New Yorkers as possible, ignoring the Supreme Court’s mandate that the right to bear arms be respected, and among many other new requirements, the legislature passed a rule that requires all applicants to disclose every social media account they have used in the last 3 years.

This morning I filed suit against Gov. Hochul and this new law, explaining it in terms I think she can understand and, in fact, should make clear to anyone, regardless of what position they take on gun control, that this is the worst possible solution:

An applicant who has had an abortion and has used the anonymity of social media to seek comfort is now outed, as is the gay person struggling to come out to their family. An applicant with an “Only Fans” who sells nude pictures of themselves online would now be required to let police officers take a look at their body. The person who uses social media to document police misconduct, too, must de-anonymize themselves, as is the supporter of Black Lives Matter or any other marginalized political group.

In other words, the government has no business in our social media. My lawsuit also challenges a character reference requirement and a training requirement that are both designed not to ensure applicants are “good guys,” but simply to ensure that as few as possible are able to jump through enough hoops to get a license.

The case is Corbett v. Hochul, 22-CV-5867 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

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