Lambda Legal Asks SCOTUS to Uphold New York Gun Law

Protesters demand gun safety legislation at the U.S. Capitol in Washington
Legal advocates at Lambda Legal filed a brief on September 21 demanding the Supreme Court to uphold stricter statewide gun control regulations.
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Lambda Legal and the law firm Williams and Connolly LLP filed a brief on September 21 demanding that the Supreme Court uphold strict gun regulations in New York amid soaring levels of anti-LGBTQ violence in the US.

On behalf of several LGBTQ advocacy groups — including Gays Against Guns, Equality New York, and the National LGBTQ Task Force — the brief calls for the Supreme Court to preserve a New York law requiring gun owners to show “proper cause” to carry a concealed firearm in public. The brief argues that the LGBTQ community is disproportionately targeted by gun violence and that loosening gun control legislation poses greater risks to the community.

The brief is being filed ahead of a landmark Second Amendment case that could decide whether the Constitution protects an individual’s right to carry guns in public.

“Gun violence disproportionately affects and harms the LGBTQ community,” Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, senior attorney for Lambda Legal, said in a written statement. “Too often we hear of the tragic murders of trans women of color, usually with a gun, and of the bias-motivated violence targeting our community. After the Pulse massacre five years ago, we declared, ‘We can no longer be silent about gun violence as an LGBT issue.’ In filing today’s brief, we want to share with the Supreme Court how the LGBTQ community is disproportionately harmed by gun violence and why we believe that sensible gun safety regulations save LGBTQ+ lives.”

The LGBTQ organizations joining the brief include the New York City Anti-Violence Project, Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, Gays Against Guns, National LGBTQ Task Force, Equality California, Equality Florida, and Equality New York.

In the brief, advocates urge the Supreme Court to support a previous decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which upheld the strict requirements.

“History and the tragedies that continue to this day demonstrate that the ready availability of guns disproportionately harms gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer people,” the brief states. “LGBTQ+ people, per capita, are more likely to be targeted for a hate crime than any other group. And, as one organization put it, ‘Hate is far more deadly when armed with a gun.’ All this leads to one conclusion: Reasonable gun regulations will save LGBTQ+ lives.”

The brief also cites the FBI’s latest annual report revealing an uptick in hate crimes based on sexual orientation in the US. Compared to last year’s report, the number of bias-related incidents aimed at a person’s sexual orientation in 2020 jumped by 3.5 percentage points.

“Unfortunately, anti-LGBTQ+ attacks are becoming more common,” the brief states. “The number of hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation has increased every year from 2014 to 2019.”

The brief also points to the record levels of gun violence targeting LGBTQ people of color and the transgender community. Earlier this month, a Black transgender woman in Louisiana was one of more than three dozen trans people killed this year.

“For almost a decade, guns have been the leading cause of death in murders of transgender people in the United States. Three out of four transgender people killed in 2020 alone died from gun violence,” the brief states. “LGBTQ+ people of color face especially heightened risk of hate crime violence. Ninety percent of the victims of the Pulse shooting were Latinx. And across multiple years and many tragedies, LGBTQ+ people of color — particularly Black and Latinx members of the community — face disproportionate levels of violence, including gun violence.”

The organization driving the challenge to gun control laws in the state, the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, told NY1 they believe the current legislation violates their Second Amendment right to carry a gun outside the home.

“We decided that we were going to try to change that and make sure that New York state residents who want a pistol permit or a concealed carry permit are given the same protections under the law that everybody else in the other 42 states are given,” Tom King, president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, said in an interview with NY1. 

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case on November 3.

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