WASHINGTON (WIVB) — On Thursday, Western New York leaders reacted to the Supreme Court decision, which struck down part of a century-old state gun law.

The High Court said it is unconstitutional to require a reason for a conceal to carry permit. The court has not made a ruling on guns this significant in about a decade.

Gun rights advocates say this is a step forward and will make the United States safer.

“In fact when you disarm us, you leave us defenseless against the Tops shooter. You leave us defenseless against the Texas shooter. The bad guys will have the guns. The question is are the law abiding people going to have them,” James Ostrowski, second-amendment attorney, said.

The 6-3 Supreme Court decision said that based on history, states can no longer request a reason to carry a concealed firearm. The mass shooting at Tops on Jefferson Ave. was also mentioned in both the concurring and dissenting opinions. Justice Samuel Alito agreed with the ruling and said the New York law would not have prevented the Tops Mass Shooting. In the dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer said mass shootings show how dangerous firearms are.

“I think for many people, particularly families in Buffalo and families in other parts of the country who have been victimized by gun violence, I think this is going to be a very painful day for them,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said.

Mayor Brown said adding more guns to the streets will not make them safer. He argues that by adding more legal guns, there will be more illegal guns in Western New York.

“We’ve seen the carnage, the mass shootings, [and] the crime. I don’t think this is a case of upholding the law. I think this is a case of weakening the law,” Mayor Brown added.

Gun rights advocates said allowing conceal to carry may deter criminals from committing such crime.

“The bad guys know it’s tough to get that carry permit. Only a small number of people are going to have it, so a small number of people are disarmed. Now, they are going to have to wonder are there more people with the right to bear arms,” Ostrowski continued.

Law enforcement experts warn this does not change New York’s lengthy pistol permit process.

“I think you will see the New York State pistol permit process continue on. Simply, they will not be able to restrict your purpose for carrying a gun,” Jeff Rinaldo, partner at Vista Security Group, said.

New York State cannot appeal this decision, but Gov. Kathy Hochul vowed to work with the legislature to strengthen gun laws within these new boundaries.

“There’s no other appeals above and beyond this. The legislature may enact some laws to go around this,” Chris Pannozzo, legal analyst and attorney at O’Brien and Ford, PC, said.

According to the latest Siena College poll, 79 percent of New York voters hoped to see the Supreme Court upheld New York’s law requiring a license to carry a concealed firearm.

Across the street from the court, lawmakers at the Capitol sped toward the passage of gun legislation prompted by recent massacres in Texas, New York and California. Senators cleared the way for the measure, modest in scope but still the most far-reaching in decades.

Also, Thursday, underscoring the nation’s deep divisions over the issue, the sister of a 9-year-old girl killed in the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, pleaded with state lawmakers to pass gun legislation. The Republican-controlled legislature has stripped away gun restrictions over the past decade.

President Joe Biden said in a statement he was “deeply disappointed” by the Supreme Court ruling. It “contradicts both common sense and the Constitution, and should deeply trouble us all,” he said. He also encourages states to create new laws.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority that the Constitution protects “an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.” That right is not a “second-class right,” Thomas wrote. “We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need.”

California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island all have laws similar to New York’s. Those laws are expected to be quickly challenged.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.