Attorney General Knudsen Leads Coalition Against Unconstitutional New York Law

Attorney General Knudsen Leads Coalition Against Unconstitutional New York Law

HELENA – Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen and 18 other state attorneys general this week filed amicus briefs in federal court supporting Americans’ right to keep and bear arms and the right of places of worship to determine their own policies related to firearms. Both cases concern New York’s unconstitutional law making it a felony to possess a firearm in “sensitive places,” which it defines to include “any place of worship or religious observation.”

The Hardaway v. Nigrelli case involves Reverend Dr. Jimmie Hardaway, Jr. and Bishop Larry A. Boyd. Hardaway and Boyd, who are leaders of their respective churches, seek to prevent the enforcement of New York’s new law that makes it a felony to carry firearms at all places of worship and religious observation.

The Spencer v. Nigrelli case involves Pastor Micheal Spencer, pastor at His Tabernacle Family Church, who believes he has “a moral and religious duty to protect the safety of those who enter the Church” and therefore has allowed security volunteers and other churchgoers with licenses to carry firearms on church campuses.

Both cases claim New York’s place-of-worship restriction is unconstitutional under the Second and Fourteenth Amendments.

“Places of worship across our nation have been attacked by radical individuals and groups – especially in recent years. If states are allowed to go down the slippery slope of restricting the right to bear arms from places of worship, the freedoms we know today may no longer exist,” Attorney General Austin Knudsen said. “Along with these 18 states, we stand in support of Americans’ rights to keep and bear arms and in support of houses of worship and their ability to defend their communities.” 

In New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect an individual’s right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense, and the government must show that any restriction that it imposes must be consistent with this nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation. Both amicus briefs argue that New York fails to show that its place-of worship restriction is part of that enduring historical tradition.

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen led the coalition and was joined by attorneys general from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

To read the Hardaway v. Nigrelli amicus brief, click here.

To read the Spencer v. Nigrelli amicus brief, click here.

Attorney General Knudsen has been actively fighting the targeting of the firearms industry and Montanans’ gun rights. He asked major shipping companies to clarify their gun-purchase tracking policies and called on YouTube to stop censoring firearm-related speech. He recently filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration’s unlawful pistol brace rule.

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