Hochul’s Gun Control: Minorities and Women Hardest Hit by Stephen M. Dallas
When the U.S. Supreme Court solidified individual gun rights in NYSRPA v Bruen, accidental Governor Kathy Hochul and fellow democrats responded with a law that purported to institute a “shall issue” standard for pistol permits (and semi-automatic rifles). But it retains mandates that applicants must demonstrate "good moral character," turn over their social media posts and undergo days, if not months, of training, background checks and in-person interviews. The law also specifies a long list of "sensitive locations" where gun possession is a felony punishable by up to four years in prison. Those restrictions will make it nearly impossible for many permit holders to actually exercise the rights recognized by the high court.
While Hochul, no doubt, wants the public to think those restrictions will target “extremism” from “white supremacists,” in fact, these new laws will likely have a disparate—if not racist and sexist-- impact on disadvantaged groups, primarily minorities and women.
During the run-up to Bruen decision, many groups submitted amicus briefs in opposition to New York’s gun laws, including the National African American Gun Association, Pinks Pistols, the Independent Women’s Law Center, the Black Attorneys of Legal Aid and several other public defender organizations.
“Such laws invariably discriminate against the poor and minorities,” wrote the National African American Gun Association.
Similarly, the Black Attorneys of Legal Aid quoted gun policy scholar David Kopel, who described New York’s original permitting law as a response to "concerns about …the huge number of immigrants, and race riots in which some blacks defended themselves with firearms." The brief notes that the law was enacted after "years of hysteria over violence that the media and the establishment attributed to racial and ethnic minorities—particularly black people and Italian immigrants."
The public defenders said the restrictions inspired by such concerns continued to have a "brutal" impact on minority groups to the present day. They calculated that it costs hundreds of dollars (now possibly thousands) to get a gun permit in New York, plus a great deal of time that is disproportionately difficult for the working poor to find.
Echoing the need for equality in self-defense, the Independent Women’s Law Center filed a brief touting a popular conservative refrain: Guns are the “great equalizer” between men and women.
“Women are often at a self-defense disadvantage. Having firearms allows them to be able to protect themselves from situations in which they might be in danger,” said Erin Morrow Hawley, a senior legal fellow with the Center.
In a violent confrontation, guns reverse the balance of power. Armed with a gun, a woman may even have the advantage over a violent attacker. An armed woman does not need superior strength or the proximity of a hand-to-hand struggle. She can protect herself or others who are vulnerable to an assailant. With multiple rounds of ammunition, at her disposal, she has a chance even against multiple attackers.
John Lott, a law professor at the University of Chicago, has conducted research suggesting that "murder rates decline when either sex carries more guns, but the effect is especially pronounced when women are considered separately."
In other words, reducing choice for gun owners disproportionately punishes minorities and women.
As the Supreme Court pointed out in Bruen, the primary purpose of the Second Amendment is to preserve the right of the people to keep and bear arms for self-defense. Therefore, while the Court noted that some burdens on the Second Amendment may be constitutionally acceptable, the Court also said that “because any permitting scheme can be put toward abusive ends, we do not rule out constitutional challenges to shall-issue regimes where, for example, lengthy wait times in processing license applications or exorbitant fees deny ordinary citizens their right to public carry.”
Hochul’s new burdens would seem to be such a denial of “ordinary citizens their right to public carry.” That denial may, for the above reasons, hit minorities and women the hardest.
In response to Hochul’s new gun control laws, State Sen. Andrew J. Lanza, R-Staten Island, pointed out that the laws are likely to impede the ability of individuals in minority communities, including New York City, to obtain a permit. For the required training, Lanza noted, the "nearest place may be 100 miles away" from Manhattan.
The new requirements may also prove especially difficult for working women and stay at home caregivers. According to the National Women’s Law Center, 2.2 million women left the labor force between February and October of 2020, due to family needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bipartisan Policy Center found that women were twice as likely as men to say they left work for caregiving responsibilities due to childcare provider or school closures.
Despite these responsibilities, they are now expected to leave their children and jobs to attend 16 hours of in-person training and an in-person interview which may only be available at a great distance from their homes.
As Elie Mystal, justice correspondent for the progressive “Nation” magazine conceded, “gating access to (a constitutional right) behind a $400 fee and an enormous time sink is not something we do for other constitutional principles.”
According to Lanza, Hochul “thinks it's okay to tell New Yorkers that the constitution does not apply to you, that you're not worthy of being able to protect your life.... When the governor tells the people of the state of New York that they are now more safe because of this legislation, the truth is they will be less safe."
If Hochul’s gun control laws tell New Yorkers they are not worthy of being able to defend themselves and if gun control hurts minorities and women the hardest, it stands to reason that Hochul has told these groups they are, in the minds of her and her fellow democrats, second-class citizens.
New Yorkers should reject the Governor’s racism and sexism and restore these rights to all.