By Jonathan Allen
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Two days before a state law is due to come into effect banning guns in “the area commonly known as Times Square,” the New York City Council held a hearing to decide exactly what that means.
Everyone could agree that Times Square must include the famous bowtie-shaped intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue, lined with theaters, thronged with tourists and lit up by dazzling electronic billboards.
On Tuesday, council members held a hearing on a bill that includes a more expansive definition for the new gun-free zone. The bill, which will be voted on in September, says the area should encompass 34 city blocks in the heart of Manhattan, applying only to outdoor areas.
The exercise was prompted by a U.S. Supreme Court decision in June that said there was a constitutional right to carry weapons in public. The court’s conservative majority threw out the gun-license laws of New York and other states for denying some people those rights.
In July, lawmakers in New York state’s Democratic-controlled legislature passed a law overhauling licensing requirements and creating a long list of “sensitive locations” where possessing a gun would be a new felony.
The list included parks, schools, courthouses, public transit and bars. Only one location was singled out by name: Times Square.
The state lawmakers left it to city officials to define what that means and post signage around its perimeter.
The new law is already facing multiple legal challenges in federal court from New Yorkers with gun permits saying some parts of it are unconstitutional. A judge is expected to rule by Thursday on whether the law can take effect while one of the lawsuits proceeds.
The thousands of New Yorkers who live in the newly defined Times Square can still carry a lawful gun to or from their homes so long as they travel through the area “in a continuous and uninterrupted manner,” New York City police said at the city meeting on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Bill Berkrot)