The New York City Council's Public Safety Committee held a hearing Tuesday on legislation that seeks to define the boundaries of Times Square in order to designate it as a "sensitive area" free from the concealed carry of guns.
The proposed legislation would officially identify "the area commonly known as Times Square," according to the draft bill, and thus determine where people will be restricted from carrying concealed firearms.
The legislation comes in response to the U.S. Supreme Court striking down a New York law that had restricted the concealed carry of handguns in public to only those with a "proper cause."
The council's designation will be tailored to fit the U.S. Supreme Court definition of "sensitive places" that could be subject to gun restrictions, like areas around schools, government buildings and polling places.
"Because the State of New York issues public-carry licenses only when an applicant demonstrates a special need for self-defense, we conclude that the State's licensing regime violates the Constitution," Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in the decision.
The Supreme Court ruling in June fell along party lines, 6-3, with the conservative justices favoring the freedom to carry concealed guns, "so long as those States employ objective licensing requirements," Justice Brett Kavanaugh added in a concurring opinion.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a bill into law in July in response to the court decision, which included making the concealed carry of guns in "sensitive locations" illegal. According to the legislation, "sensitive locations" could include airports and public transportation, entertainment venues, bars and restaurants, houses of worship and Times Square, among others.
The state left it up to the city to determine what exactly constitutes Times Square.
"Times Square is back to pre-pandemic pedestrian crowding," Tom Harris, the president of the Times Square Alliance, said during Tuesday's hearing. "Given the high and continuously growing levels of foot traffic, we appreciate the state's recognition as a very dense area deserving an extra layer of public safety protection."
The proposal discussed at the hearing would define Times Square as two adjoining areas of Manhattan, according to a draft of the bill. The first section would be bounded on the west by Eighth Avenue, the south by West 40th Street, the east by Sixth Avenue and the north by West 50th Street. The second would be bounded on the west by Ninth Avenue, the south by West 40th Street, the east by Eighth Avenue and the north by West 48th Street.
The latter portion includes the heavily trafficked Port Authority Bus Terminal.
The proposed boundaries do not include the interior of any building or enclosed structure within Times Square, but the concealed carry of guns inside of buildings or structures within the proposed boundaries could be restricted under other New York laws regulating concealed carry permit areas, according to a draft of the bill. New state gun laws also ban the carry of guns on all private property by default, unless the owner of the property has signage permitting guns or has otherwise expressed consent to guns being permitted.
The proposed legislation also directs the New York Police Department to enact rules, as needed, in order to implement the bill, according to a draft of the bill. The NYPD will be putting up signage at entryways to Times Square and throughout the designated area.
Individuals who live or work in Times Square can carry guns within Times Square as long as they are moving in a continuous fashion and concealed carrying is legal in the place they are going, according to the draft bill. This rule would also apply to vehicular movement through Times Square.
Rules set by the NYPD will also require individuals who tell police they have a carry license to show it to officers.
The NYPD said it has been educating officers on the new laws regarding firearms in the city since the Supreme Court issued its decision in June, Robert Barrows, executive director of NYPD Legal Operations and Projects, told council members in his testimony.
Barrows also highlighted that prior to the new state legislation, officers have always dealt with areas where carrying guns was prohibited, such as government buildings and courts. The new "sensitive locations" legislation just expands the number of areas where police would have to monitor the concealed carry of guns.
The NYPD said it has received an additional 1,100 hand gun applications since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in June.
The state's new gun laws designating Times Square as a "sensitive area" will take effect Thursday.
At the hearing, the NYPD said it does not currently plan on creating additional checkpoints or officer details in order to enforce the sensitive location rules in Times Square.
Before the pandemic, Times Square saw more than 400,000 people pass through each day in the busy summer months, according to the Times Square Alliance. Those numbers fell during 2020 and 2021, but are on the rise again.