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Paladino leads spate of challenges to new state gun law

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A spate of lawsuits has challenged the constitutionality of a new state law limiting the carrying of concealed guns, including litigation filed Monday in federal court by congressional candidate Carl P. Paladino.

Buffalo attorney Paul J. Cambria Jr. said he gladly agreed to represent Paladino, the most prominent figure filing the new lawsuits, citing his own long history of challenging legislation he deems unconstitutional.

"It's what I do," Cambria told The Buffalo News. "And this (state gun legislation) sets a dangerous precedent for me as a constitutional lawyer."

A similar legal effort is expected from Nicholas A. Langworthy, who is Paladino's Republican primary opponent for the 23rd Congressional District. Langworthy's office said Monday his suit is being drafted and will be filed shortly. 

In federal court in Syracuse, Gun Owners of America filed its motion Monday. And Brooklyn gun permit holder Jonathan Corbett submitted his challenge in Manhattan federal court, also on Monday.

All of the litigation challenges the new legislation adopted by a special session of the Legislature and signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul on July 1. The new law came in response to the June 23 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court overturning a more than a century-old New York law limiting circumstances for carrying a concealed weapon. The high court ruled that "ordinary, law abiding citizens have a ... right to carry handguns publicly for self-defense," and that it "is not a second class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees."

In response, the Legislature and governor crafted new legislation that said, in effect, the right is limited in New York to people on their own property or certain public properties. The law now prohibits carrying a concealed gun in "sensitive locations" such as schools, polling places, parks, playgrounds, churches, public transit, and sports and entertainment venues.

Paladino said Tuesday that he is prepared to take his lawsuit, focusing on prohibition against carrying on private property other than the permit holder's, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"New York State cannot force law-abiding citizens to get permission to carry their concealed handgun each time they enter a different property anymore than it could force citizens to ask property owners for permission before they express a political opinion or pray in public," he said. "I am confident that I will win my lawsuit."

The owner of Ellicott Square, Paladino says in his suit that as a landowner, he is now forced to grant permission to anyone carrying a concealed weapon in his downtown office building. 

"No other constitutional right requires that such prior consent be obtained from another citizen before such constitutional right can be exercised," Cambria says in court papers.

The suit contends that the new law's Section 5 "is one of the most expansive infringements on the constitutional right to bear arms for self defense ever adopted by a state legislature."

"Section 5 acts to preclude all law-abiding New Yorkers from carrying any firearm, regardless of whether such a firearm is carried concealed or openly, on all private property in New York State without the prior permission of the owner or lessee of such property," the suit continues.

In an interview, Cambria said New York's response to the Supreme Court decision requires "consent by strangers" before someone carrying a handgun could enter private property  such as Paladino's Ellicott Square.

"You don't know the people who own these places, and you can't exercise your right which the Supreme Court says is there," Cambria said. "Now the state says "No, unless some stranger says it's OK.' That's the focal point."

Paladino has championed gun rights throughout his political career, and now is expected to catapult the issue to the forefront of his congressional campaign as he and Langworthy battle for the conservative voters likely to turn out for the Aug. 23 GOP primary. When he announced his lawsuit last week, Paladino noted that New York State has the right to pass "reasonable restrictions" for concealed guns, but he objects to new requirements, such as disclosing social media accounts in applying for the right to carry.

"I feel an obligation to the people of the State of New York for their protection," he said regarding his new court challenge.

Langworthy, meanwhile, is expected to soon file litigation challenging the new law in his capacity as state Republican chairman. In conjunction with state Conservative Chairman Gerard Kassar, Langworthy said they will build a coalition to support the legal fight.

  

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