A federal lawsuit challenging the New York State semi-auto ban in a case known as Lane v. James was filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, with support from the Second Amendment Foundation and Firearms Policy Coalition.
Plaintiffs in the case are New York residents J. Mark Lane—for whom the case is named—and James Sears. They are represented by SAF and FPC attorneys Cody Wisniewski, Adam Kraut, who is also SAF executive director, and Nicolas J. Rotsko.
Named as defendants are New York State Attorney General Letitia James, State Police Supt. Steven A. Nigrelli and Westchester County District Attorney Miriam E. Rocah, in their official capacities.
“The issue in this lawsuit is very plain,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb in a statement. “Both Sears and Lane are law-abiding New York residents who wish to own modern semiautomatic sport-utility rifles such as the AR-15, for lawful purposes including target shooting and home defense. Such rifles are in common use across the country, yet in the Empire State, citizens face the threat of arrest, confiscation, prosecution, fined and imprisonment for lawfully using such rifles.”
The 19-page complaint details the problems for law-abiding Empire State gun owners as a result of legislation adopted by the state more than seven years ago. As noted in the lawsuit, “AR-15 rifles are among the most popular firearms in the nation, and they are owned by millions of Americans. A recent survey of gun owners indicates that about 24.6 million Americans have owned up to 44 million AR-15s or similar modern sporting rifles, with the “median owner” identified as owning a single rifle.”
Earlier challenges to the law were not successful, but the legal field has changed because of the Supreme Court’s Bruen ruling—coincidentally regarding a New York gun law case—in June.
The lawsuit alleges that when the Second Circuit previously upheld New York’s semi-auto ban in 2015, the court relied on a two-step test that has since been rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in its June Bruen decision as “one step too many.” Because the Second Circuit concluded that so-called “assault weapons” at issue are in common use, it should have held the New York ban violates the Second Amendment. This new action will allow the Second Circuit to correct the situation, SAF said.
The complaint seeks a declaratory judgment that Lane and Sears have a fundamental right to keep and bear arms, and that the ban on common semiautomatic firearms by New York law is a violation of rights guaranteed by the Second and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiffs are also asking for a permanent injunction on the enforcement of the New York ban.
“We’re simply asking the court to uphold the Constitution,” Gottlieb stated.