Federal Court Reinstates Right-to-Carry In Houses of Worship

A recent preliminary decision from a federal appeals court represents a step in the right direction regarding the right to bear concealed firearms in houses of worship in the state of New York.

On December 8, 2023, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued its decision in Antonyuk v. Chiumento. In this decision, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals addressed four consolidated cases in which various organizations and individuals challenged the New York gun control law known as the Concealed Carry Improvement Act (CCIA).

The CCIA was passed in 2022 immediately after another New York gun control law was overturned by the Supreme Court of the United States in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, 597 U.S. 1 (2022). Because the CCIA banned volunteer church security team members from carrying concealed firearms, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms filed a lawsuit contending that it violated the Second Amendment. Other lawsuits were filed, and this limitation on volunteer church security personnel was found unconstitutional. Later, the CCIA was amended to allow unpaid security personnel at houses of worship to carry firearms; however, congregants remained barred from doing so.

In Antonyuk, the court preliminarily found some parts of the CCIA unconstitutional, but allowed other parts of the law to stand. Specifically, the court blocked the provisions of the CCIA that ban the carrying of firearms on private premises which are open to the public, that require concealed carry permit applicants to submit their social media accounts for government review, and—most importantly, at least for Christian gun owners—that prohibit carrying concealed firearms within houses of worship. The court upheld portions of the CCIA that ban concealed carry in “sensitive places” like parks and theaters. The court found it problematic that the CCIA treats concealed carry in houses of worship differently than it treats concealed carry in nonreligious venues.

The Antonyuk decision means that for now, New York concealed carry permitholders may now carry firearms within houses of worship, whether or not they are security team members.

The court noted that its decision was made “at a very early stage of this litigation,” and stated that “a preliminary injunction is not a full merits decision, but rather addresses only the ‘likelihood of success on the merits.’” The court added that its decision “does not determine the ultimate constitutionality of the challenged CCIA provisions, which await further briefing, discovery, and historical analysis, both in these cases as they proceed and perhaps in other cases.”

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