Don’t Pull the Trigger on New York’s Concealed Carry Improvement Act: Addressing First and Second Amendment Concerns

April 1, 2023

Despite the increasing prevalence of mass shootings in the United States, the U.S. Supreme Court in New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n, Inc. v. Bruen struck down a 100-year-old New York statute that had restricted access to concealed carry permits.  The statute had required applicants to demonstrate a “proper cause” for needing a concealed carry permit.  But even if an applicant made the necessary showing, licensing officials retained discretion under the statute to decline to issue a permit.  In striking down the statute, the Court distinguished between “may-issue” jurisdictions, such as New York, which give licensing officials discretion in issuing permits, and acceptable “shall-issue” jurisdictions, which automatically issue permits if applicants satisfy the statutory criteria.  New York responded to this decision by removing the “proper cause” showing from its licensing regime and enacting the Concealed Carry Improvement Act, which imposed additional requirements.  These requirements include having applicants turn over access to their social media accounts to determine if they have “good moral character.”

These new requirements raise First and Second Amendment concerns, including the difficulty of determining if a particular social media post is troublesome, the uncertainty of deciding the type and number of online posts that should suffice as adequate evidence of future danger, and whether other activities on social media platforms—such as “liking” a post—should be considered.  This Note begins by examining the legal background of the First and Second Amendments before discussing the debate surrounding how to balance these constitutional rights with protecting public safety.  It concludes by suggesting how New York and other states can address these concerns, comport with Bruen, and allow for stronger gun control legislation to prevent additional tragedies from occurring.

April 2023

No. 5