WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CN) - Five Westchester residents and the Second Amendment Foundation cannot relax a law forcing citizens to demonstrate proper cause before they pack heat on public streets, a federal judge ruled.
New York courts have interpreted "proper cause" as having a "special need for self-protection" as compared to the general population.
"I hold that the state has an important government interest in promoting public safety and preventing crime," U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel wrote in an order dismissing a class action challenging the regulation.
Alan Kachalsky, Christina Nikolov, Eric Detmer, Johnnie Nance and Anna Marcucci-Nance say their applications for full-carry permits were rejected, even though they had all been trained in firearms and had spotless criminal records.
Kachalsky claimed he had proper cause because "we live in a world where sporadic random violence might at any moment place one in a position where one needs to defend oneself or possibly others," court documents say.
Judge Susan Cacace, his licensing officer, found that this explanation did not distinguish him from anybody else seeking a permit.
Nikolov said she deserved a license because she passed three firearms safety courses with the National Rifle Association, showed a "calm demeanor" as a pilot and flight instructor, and had a higher likelihood of being the victim of violence as a transgender woman.
Rejecting her request, Judge Jeffrey A. Cohen explained that a specific threat of violence against her was "conspicuously absent" from her application.
Nance and Marcucci-Nance cited no special needs for full-carry permits, Judge Robert K. Holdman found.
Detmer thought he satisfied the proper cause requirement as a federal law enforcement officer with the U.S. Coast Guard, but Judge Albert Lorenzo said his application contained "no justification" for a full-carry permit.
Gaining the support of the Second Amendment Foundation, the five applicants filed a federal class action lawsuit against Westchester County and the four judges serving as licensing officers in late 2010.
On Friday, Judge Seibel agreed that the plaintiffs had standing to pursue the case, but she granted summary judgment to the defendants sua sponte on the grounds that the state had the duty to protect public safety.
In a footnote, she noted that the state attorneys argued in affidavits that gun crimes are linked to general availability, and citizens with concealed handguns can endanger cops stopping them.
An affidavit also said that the "majority of criminal homicides and other serious crimes are committed by individuals who have not been convicted of a felony and would receive permits to carry concealed weapons without the 'proper cause' requirement."
Data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives showed that 227 firearms were recovered during the first half of 2009 in Westchester, more than double those recovered in nearby Orange County and several times more than those recovered in Dutchess, Rockland, Sullivan and Putnam.
The report also cited 132 weapon offenses in the Westchester region.
Judge Seibel entered the 60-page opinion on Friday, preceding a particularly bloody Labor Day weekend in which 48 people were shot in New York City. Mayor Mike Bloomberg called for stricter gun-control laws Tuesday.
By ADAM KLASFELD Courthouse News Service