New York's highest court has been asked to decide whether the state's handgun licensing scheme limits permits to full-time residents.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit certified that question to the New York Court of Appeals Tuesday, seeking guidance in the case of a man who has a part-time residence in New York but was denied a gun permit by local authorities.
Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and circuit Judges Dennis Jacobs and John Walker Jr. said in Osterweil v. Bartlett, 11-2420-cv, they could not determine the constitutionality of certain aspects of the state's scheme without getting an answer to the question on domiciliaries.
Writing for the panel, O'Connor referenced the Dec. 14 massacre of 20 schoolchildren and six staffers at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
She said the court, in certifying, must ask whether the question is important to the state and where it may require, in the words of the case law, "value judgments and public policy choices."
"It certainly is, and it certainly does," O'Connor said. "The regulation of firearms is a paramount issue of public safety, and recent events in this circuit are a sad reminder that firearms are dangerous in the wrong hands."
The case involves a challenge by Alfred Osterweil, who applied for a handgun license in May 2008 at a time when his house in Summit, Schoharie County, was his primary residence.
During the application process, which, under New York Penal Law § 400.00(3)(a) requires that people apply "in the city or county" where they reside, Osterweil moved to Louisiana but kept his Summit home as a part-time vacation residence.
Also during the process, the U.S. Supreme Court decided District of Columbia v. Heller, 544 U.S. 570 (2008), holding that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects an individual's right to bear arms and that the core of that right is the right to self-defense in one's home.
After Heller, Osterweil sent a letter to Schoharie County licensing authorities intimating that a constitutional challenge would follow a rejection of his application that was based on his domicile.