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Washington – Sept. 22, 2021 – The Violence Policy Center is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold New York state's concealed handgun law, arguing that the statute legitimately prevents gun violence, including mass shootings and the deaths of law-enforcement personnel.
With the pro bono assistance of law firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, the center filed an amicus brief in support of the respondents in the pending case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Kevin P. Bruen, Superintendent of the New York State Police. The association's suit challenges a state law enacted in 1911 that allows for the concealed carriage of handguns only with a permit issued for "proper cause." Oral argument in the case is scheduled for Nov. 3.
The VPC's brief argues that New York's licensing regime is a legitimate restriction on private citizens' rights, because concealed firearms in the hands of the general public have an unmatched ability to cause unlawful violence, including injuries and death.
"New York's law allows law enforcement officials to exercise discretion in issuing permits to carry concealed handguns," VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand said. "The ability to deny permits to potentially dangerous applicants is absolutely necessary to help prevent tragedies, including mass shootings."
The brief is largely based on the VPC's Concealed Carry Killers project, an online resource that tracks non-self-defense killings involving private citizens with permits to carry concealed handguns in public. It also details the increasing lethality, as measured by firepower and capacity, of the civilian handgun market as well as the inadequacy of handguns as self-defense tools.
Contrary to the National Rifle Association's former top lobbyist Tanya Metaksa's false assertion that "[t]hese citizens don't commit violent crimes," concealed handgun permit holders have been involved in at least 1,757 fatal, non-self-defense incidents since May 2007, resulting in the deaths of 2,015 people.
The brief focuses on mass shootings (defined by federal law as three or more victims killed) and the killing of law-enforcement personnel by concealed handgun permit holders and includes numerous examples. Since May 2007, the VPC has identified 37 fatal mass shootings by concealed handgun permit holders, resulting in the deaths of 183 victims, as well as 24 law-enforcement officers killed by permit holders.
"VPC's brief has the potential to make a real difference in the outcome of the litigation," said Davis Wright Tremaine partner David M. Gossett, who represents VPC along with DWT colleagues Thaila Sundaresan and Andrew G. Row. "It is far too easy to rely on intuition and presupposition when it comes to gun violence. VPC's Concealed Carry Killers project demonstrates that concealed carry permit holders commit horrific crimes with disturbing regularity. It is thus entirely legitimate for New York to regulate the issuance of such permits."
Of the vast majority of the 1,757 incidents Concealed Carry Killers documented, the permit holder either committed suicide (1,070), has already been convicted (471), perpetrated a murder-suicide (64), or was killed in the incident (22). Of the 91 pending cases, 77 concealed carry killers have been charged with criminal homicide, five were deemed incompetent to stand trial, and nine incidents are still under investigation. An additional 39 incidents were fatal unintentional shootings involving the permit holder's gun.
The brief concludes: "These examples underscore the widespread devastation and death that ensue when some private citizens are permitted to carry concealed handguns. The tragic loss of life from these shootings is further compounded by the lethality and efficiency of today's handguns, which together demonstrate that New York's scheme that limits the frequency with which concealed carry permits are issued is eminently reasonable."
Additional information, including a state-by-state breakdown of fatal incidents involving concealed carry killers, is available at concealedcarrykillers.org. To review all deaths involving concealed carry killers, click on "Total People Killed by Concealed Carry Killers."
The Violence Policy Center is a national educational organization working to stop gun death and injury. Follow the VPC on Twitter and Facebook.
Davis Wright Tremaine LLP is an Am Law 100 firm with more than 600 lawyers representing clients based across the United States and around the world. For more information, visit www.dwt.com.