Mayor Adams signed a couple of bills into law Tuesday formalizing Times Square as a “gun-free zone” — even as the designation remains in legal limbo due to a recent ruling from a federal judge in upstate New York.
Times Square was among a long list of locations that the state Legislature this summer designated as “sensitive areas” where guns would be banned. The legislative action from Albany aimed to counteract the Supreme Court’s reversal of a long-standing New York restriction on carrying firearms in public.
The bills Adams inked during a news conference in Times Square on Tuesday morning formally authorize the city to enforce the state legislation.
“This is the heart of our city,” Adams said before signing the measures, “and you don’t want a city, particularly here, where people are carrying illegal, or, based on the Supreme Court, legal guns in this area.”
But Adams’ signing ceremony came on the heels of a court decision that jeopardizes the very existence of the state’s new gun-free zones.
On Thursday, Syracuse-based federal Judge Glenn Suddaby ruled that the state law underpinning the gun-free zone designations is unconstitutional due to the Supreme Court’s June decision.
New York Attorney General Letitia James promptly filed notice that she would appeal. As a result, Suddaby agreed to pause implementation of his ruling for three business days while waiting to hear if the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit would take up James’ emergency request.
The pause expires Wednesday, and it’s anyone’s guess when and how the appeals court will act.
Stephen Lewis, an attorney at the city Law Department who joined Adams at the Times Square press conference, acknowledged that the mayor’s gun-free zone action may be short-lived. Still, Lewis promised the law will remain in effect in the interim.
“Until they make some further determination, we will continue to enforce the law,” he said of the appeals court.
He added: “Right now, we just have to wait and see what happens.”
The conservative-leaning Supreme Court’s June 23 ruling struck down a century-old New York law that required gun owners to have “proper cause” to carry firearms in public, such as a threat to their personal safety. The top court ruling cleared the way for anyone with a permit to keep concealed firearms on them in New York.
The “sensitive area” legislation was meant to curtail the Supreme Court’s ruling by making it illegal to carry guns in government buildings, hospitals, bars, parks, museums, schools and other densely populated spaces — regardless of permits — with exceptions for law enforcement personnel.
Dozens of gun-free zone signs first went up at entry points to Times Square on Sept. 1, when the state legislation officially took effect.
The bills signed by Adams Tuesday, which were authored by Manhattan Councilman Shaun Abreu, officially defines Times Square as the area spanning from 40th to 53rd Sts. in between 9th and 6th Aves.
The bills also gave the go-ahead for the city to post “permanent signage” at Times Square warning passerby that it’s a felony to wield a gun in the area. But, underscoring the uncertainty of the situation, an Adams administration official said the city isn’t moving on the permanent signage component for the time being.
“With the ongoing legal challenge, we’re holding off on posting the permanent signage pending a resolution,” the official said.
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