Libraries and NYS Concealed Firearms Law

Submission Date:


The NYS law requiring people to demonstrate a reason to conceal carry a weapon has been overturned by the Supreme Court. What this means for libraries. Is there anything we can do to prevent guns in the library?


When New York’s "proper-cause requirement" for obtaining an unrestricted license to carry a concealed firearm was struck down by the United States Supreme Court on June 23, 2022[1], the New York State Legislature--in a state still reeling from fatal gun violence in Buffalo just weeks before--swiftly passed laws to replace it.[2]

The law they passed on July 1, 2022 was a different approach than "proper cause". Rather than require someone to prove they had a reason to carry a concealed weapon; it removed that SCOTUS-invalidated section from the Penal law, and added Section 265.01-e of the New York State Penal Law: "Criminal possession of a firearm, rifle or shotgun in a sensitive location".

255.01-e goes into effect on September 1, 2022.  It provides:

1. A person is guilty of criminal possession of a firearm, rifle or shotgun in a sensitive location when such person possesses a firearm, rifle or shotgun in or upon a sensitive location, and such person knows or reasonably should know such location is a sensitive location.

2. For the purposes of this section, a sensitive location shall mean:

(a) any place owned or under the control of federal, state or local government, for the purpose of government administration, including courts;

(b) any location providing health, behavioral health, or chemical dependance care or services;

(c) any place of worship or religious observation;

(d) libraries, public playgrounds, public parks, and zoos; ...

Criminal possession of a firearm, rifle or shotgun in a "sensitive location" is a class E felony.  [emphases added; rest of law is below answer]

So, the very plain answer to the member's question is: libraries that inform visitors that the area is a "sensitive location" per Penal Law 255.01-e can bar firearms, rifles, and shotguns on library property.

There are a few practical considerations for this:

1.  Because enforcement of the law requires people to be aware of it, libraries should maintain a map of their property and use it to develop signage that informs those licensed to carry firearms of the applications of the law.

2.  Libraries should work with their local law enforcement and/or private security to be sure their plan for 255.01-e enforcement is well-thought out, is in a written policy passed by the Board, and is practiced plan for enforcement.

3.  Libraries should not rely solely on 255.01-e for assurance of safety, but rather, should consider it another tool in the box (other tools are: a workplace violence prevention policy, an all-hazards response plan, and customized safety measures).

4.  Libraries with shared spaces should meet with their neighbors to assess the application of the law in common areas (note: many of the entities libraries tend to share spaces with--historical societies, community centers, town buildings, etc.--are "sensitive locations" too; see the rest of the list below).

5.  Libraries in areas where local law already restricts firearms in certain areas should explore how this new "sensitive location" law interacts with the laws in their municipality (a job for the library's lawyer).

6.  Libraries in areas immediately adjacent to places where people go hunting should pay particular attention to the 255.01-e's modifications for hunters, and be ready to enforce the law with suitable refinements.[3]

7.  Since enforcement of 255.01-e depends on a person being clearly informed of the area being a "sensitive location", signage should be developed carefully, and reviewed by an attorney before posting.

And now, let's talk about the hard part: diplomacy.

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to strike down the "proper cause" requirement brought dismay to some, and satisfaction to others.  The reaction to New York's swift response in creating new gun control measures will likely be similarly schismatic. Since a good implementation of 255.01-e will require thorough discussion of it, I think it might be helpful to provide some additional information for perspective.

But before we do that, I will share a small story.

In 2021, I attended a pistol permit class.  A colleague of mind had obtained her permit and invited me to target practice, and since I am a relentless seeker of skills, I wanted to give it a try, and getting a permit was the only way onto the range.

While at my pistol permit class, I learned (or re-learned) several things, the most repeated one being: never point a gun at something you don't want to shoot.[4]

As it turned out, I finished the class, but I didn't apply for a pistol permit. Rather than become a casual weekend target shooter, I opted to learn welding[5], instead.  But I do remember something from the class that is relevant to this answer; when the instructor coached us on how to fill in the application for a pistol permit, he explained how if you wanted to conceal-carry, we would need a special reason (a "proper-cause" as discussed by the Supreme Court)...and then assured the females in the room that for us, it was probably enough of a safety risk that we were women--but the men should be ready with a bit more justification.

If you ever meet me out when I am feeling chatty, we can unpack the implications of this assurance.[6] For now, I'll say, when presented with this, my first thought was: this does not seem consistent with the U.S. Constitution.

It's not every day I find myself aligned with Justice Thomas (who wrote the majority opinion scuttling "proper cause") but for this one, I actually get it.

Which brings me to a cool thing about law, and the reason that despite its ups and downs, I cherish my profession.

In ruling that NY's "proper cause" requirement violated the Second and Fourteenth Amendments, Judge Thomas wrote:

After holding that the Second Amendment protected an individual right to armed self-defense, we also relied on the historical understanding of the Amendment to demark the limits on the exercise of that right. We noted that, “[l]ike most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.” Id., at 626. “From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”


For example, courts can use analogies to “longstanding” “laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings” to determine whether modern regulations are constitutionally permissible. Id., at 626. That said, respondents’ attempt to characterize New York’s proper-cause requirement as a “sensitive-place” law lacks merit because there is no historical basis for New York to effectively declare the island of Manhattan a “sensitive place” simply because it is crowded and protected generally by the New York City Police Department. Pp. 17–22.

So, the Supreme Court trashed New York's law as unconstitutional, but while doing it, reinforced other elements of Second Amendment jurisprudence related to "sensitive spaces." 

The NY Legislature, taking Hon. Thomas at his word, has now created a lengthy list of "sensitive spaces"...and while it doesn't quite cover the entire "Isle of Manhattan", it is a very comprehensive list.

          In addition to the "sensitive locations" listed above, it includes:

(e) [licensed child care providers];

(f) nursery schools, preschools, and summer camps;

(g) [programs] for people with developmental disabilities;

(h) the location of any program licensed, regulated, certified, operated, or funded by office of addiction services and supports;

(i) the location of any program licensed, regulated, certified, operated, or funded by the office of mental health;

(j) the location of certain disability assistance programs;

(k) homeless shelters, runaway homeless youth shelters, family shelters, shelters for adults, domestic violence shelters, and emergency shelters, and residential programs for victims of domestic violence;

(l) residential settings licensed, certified, regulated, funded, or operated by the department of health;

(m)  educational institutions;

(n) public transportation...airports, train stations, subway and rail stations, and bus terminals;

(o) [any place where you can consume alcohol or cannibis];

(p)  theaters, stadiums, racetracks, museums, amusement parks, performance venues, concerts, exhibits, conference centers, banquet halls, and gaming facilities and video lottery terminal facilities as licensed by the gaming commission;

(q) any location being used as a polling place;

(r) any public sidewalk or other public area restricted from general public access for a limited time or special event that has been issued a permit for such time or event by a governmental entity, or subject to specific, heightened law enforcement protection, or has otherwise had such access restricted by a governmental entity, provided such location is identified as such by clear and conspicuous signage;

(s) any gathering of individuals to collectively express their constitutional rights to protest or assemble;[7]

(t) the area commonly known as Times Square.[8]

Will this list survive a challenge to the law, with people claiming they have a right to bear arms in some of these locations?  Here is the plain-language personal right that the list is up against;

It is undisputed that petitioners Koch and Nash[9]—two ordinary, law-abiding, adult citizens—are part of “the people” whom the Second Amendment protects. See Heller, 554 U. S., at 580. And no party disputes that handguns are weapons “in common use” today for self-defense. See id., at 627. The Court has little difficulty concluding also that the plain text of the Second Amendment protects Koch’s and Nash’s proposed course of conduct—carrying handguns publicly for self-defense. Nothing in the Second Amendment’s text draws a home/public distinction with respect to the right to keep and bear arms, and the definition of “bear” naturally encompasses public carry. Moreover, the Second Amendment guarantees an “individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation,” id., at 592, and confrontation can surely take place outside the home. Pp. 23–24

Why do I bring this up?  I am from Central NY (raised in a pro-gun rights area) and my adopted hometown is Buffalo.  I know and respect people on both sides of the gun debate.  This issue isn't going away soon...and libraries that want to implement this law will need to discuss it.

So, when your library decides to adopt a 255.01-e policy and put up some signage, it is worth thinking deeply about the local character of your community, and how they will best absorb and honor this message. The law does not prescribe any particular way to designate how an area is posted as a "sensitive location;" your signage can sound as helpful and friendly--or as formal and stern--as you like. It can quote the law, or, so long as the final text is reviewed by an attorney, it can paraphrase it. The choice is yours, and can reflect the character and needs of your particular community.

Just as critical will be discussing with local law enforcement (or contract security) how this law will be enforced in your libraries.  Training staff to understand and speak knowledgeably about the policy will be critical, too.

Writing this from Buffalo, I wish we lived in the world where we didn't have to address this type of question for something so beautiful as a local library. But we do, and I am grateful for the person who submitted the question, and I wish you well as your libraries work with the new legislation.



[1] The case name is New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen, and it can be found here:

[2] Called "AN ACT to amend the penal law, the general business law, the executive law, the civil practice law and rules and the state finance law, in relation to licensing and other provisions relating to firearms", it can be found here.

[3] Other exceptions or limits to the law pertain to: law enforcement; police officers as defined in subdivision thirty-four of section 1.20 of the criminal procedure law; peace officers; retired police officers; security guards as defined by and registered under article seven-A of the general business law, who have been granted a special armed registration card, while at the location of their employment and during their work hours as such a security guard; active-duty military personnel; a government employee under the express written consent of such employee’s supervising government entity for the purposes of natural resource protection and management; persons lawfully engaged in hunting activity, including hunter education training; persons operating a program in a sensitive location out of their residence, as defined by this section, which is licensed, certified, authorized, or funded by the state or a municipality, so long as such possession is in compliance with any rules or regulations applicable to the operation of such program and use or storage of firearms. THIS LIST IS A SUMMARY; check the law when generating policy.

[4] Or as was recited in one of my favorite "Rumpole of the Bailey" stories:  "Never, never let your gun, pointed be at any one; that it might not loaded be, matters not the least to me."

[5] I now have my D1 pre-certification, which means I spent a lot of time welding in 2021 and 2022.

[6] Words like systemic, and sexism, and stereotyping, and violence, and culture will be bandied about.

[7] Prediction: this one will be the one that gets struck down by the Supreme Court in 2026 or so.  It's a First Amendment/Second Amendment bump-set-spike combo. As of this writing, cases are already being brought to challenge the new law.

[8] Don't use this list for research, I tried to pare it down by removing citations and qualifiers.

[9] The men who brought the case up through to the Supreme Court.


Policy, Public Libraries, Safety, Firearms