Attorney General Bonta: States Must Protect Places of Worship from Gun Violence

Wednesday, January 25, 2023
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

Files brief urging court to maintain states’ authority to limit possession and use of firearms in certain sensitive public places 

OAKLAND — California Attorney General Rob Bonta today, as part of a multistate coalition, filed an amicus brief in support of New York’s commonsense regulation and authority to prohibit the carrying of firearms in sensitive places, in particular, places of worship.  The friend of the court brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, urges the court to overturn a decision by the district court in Hardaway v. Nigrelli to block New York’s reasonable restriction against firearms in places of worship. The Attorney General urges the court to maintain states’ authority to limit the possession and use of firearms in locations where people exercise their constitutionally protected right to worship, and where large groups — including vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly — often congregate in confined spaces. 

 “The fact is, more guns in more places makes us less safe and interferes with the ability of our citizens to exercise their constitutional rights,” said Attorney General Bonta. “On Monday, we saw seven people shot in Half Moon Bay. This weekend, 11 people gunned down in Monterey Park. Less than a year ago, six people were shot during a church service in Laguna Woods. In the United States, tragedies such as these are all too common and as we see this trauma compound in our communities, we must do more, not less. We must provide the public with protection from gun violence, and respect the authority of states as they implement commonsense gun regulations to safeguard their communities.”

New York’s regulation implicates several of the key concerns that underlie other sensitive place restrictions that many states have adopted: limiting the possession and use of firearms in locations where people exercise other constitutionally protected rights, where vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly tend to congregate, and where large groups of people gather in confined spaces.   

The coalition argues that New York’s restriction on public carry of firearms in places of worship is reasonable to protect the public from a heightened risk of gun violence in such locations, and fits squarely within a long tradition of constitutionally acceptable regulations.  

Gun violence remains a growing threat to public safety throughout the nation. On average, there are over 120 gun deaths each day and nearly 45,000 each year in the U.S.  Although the United States is an outlier when compared to gun violence in other wealthy nations, states with strong gun violence protections in place see fewer firearms-related deaths.

In the amicus brief, the attorneys general urge the appeals court to reverse the district court’s order, explaining that:

  • The Second Amendment allows states to implement reasonable firearm regulations to promote gun safety and protect against gun violence; and
  • Consistent with regulations adopted by other states, the challenged provision addresses the dangers posed by firearms in places of worship. 

On January 19, 2023, Attorney General Bonta also joined a brief urging the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to reverse a district court decision blocking enforcement of several provisions of the same New York law. Earlier the same week, on January 17, the Attorney General filed an amicus brief in the Second Circuit in support of New York’s defense against a legal challenge to its firearm-related public nuisance statute—a law that is similar to California’s AB 1594, which the Attorney General supported to restore the right of victims to hold the firearm industry responsible for its misconduct. 

These efforts continue the ongoing work of Attorney General Bonta to protect the public from gun violence. In 2022, the Attorney General launched a first-in-the-nation Office of Gun Violence Prevention, took legal action against ghost gun retailers, advocated for and defended commonsense gun laws, worked on the ground to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous individuals, and announced the 2021 APPS report, which reported the seizure of more than 1,400 illegally-possessed firearms through Armed and Prohibited Persons (APPS) enforcement efforts in 2021 — a 15% year-over-year increase. Attorney General Bonta also provided grants to local law enforcement to support activities related to seizing weapons from individuals prohibited from possessing them, successfully called on credit card companies to do their part to end illegal gun trafficking and mass shootings, and promoted the use of the state’s red flag laws to remove weapons from individuals who pose a danger to themselves or others.

Attorney General Bonta joins the Attorney General of the District of Columbia, Illinois, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin in filing the amicus brief.

 A copy of the brief may be viewed here.


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