ALBANY, N.Y. (Feb. 15, 2023) – A bill introduced in the New York Senate would put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to add language protecting the right to keep and bear arms to the state constitution. The enactment of the amendment would create a pathway to further limit the enforcement of gun control in New York and could potentially foster an environment more hostile to federal gun control.

Asm. William Barclay (R) and 15 Republican cosponsors introduced Assembly Bill 3987 (A3987) on Feb. 8. If passed, New York voters would consider an amendment to the state constitution prohibiting the infringement on the right to keep and bear arms in the 2024 general election. The amendment would add the following language to Article 1 of the New York state constitution.

“Right to keep and bear arms: A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms cannot be infringed.”

Although the amendment by itself includes no explicit provisions as to how the right to keep and bear arms would be protected from violations at the state or federal level, it would provide the legal framework to limit state enforcement of gun control in New York.

Most people try to stop state and local violations of the right to keep and bear arms in federal courts under the Second Amendment. But the Supreme Court has created all kinds of exceptions to “shall not infringe.” A state constitutional amendment can create a legal pathway for New York to block state and local enforcement of gun control through the state courts even when federal courts allow it. It would also allow New York courts to place stricter protections on the right to keep and bear arms than federal courts.


While an amendment to the state constitution would do not directly impact federal gun control, any move to relax gun laws at the state level subtly undermines federal efforts to regulate guns. As we’ve seen with marijuana and industrial hemp, a federal regulation becomes ineffective when states ignore it and pass laws encouraging the prohibited activity anyway.

The federal government lacks the enforcement power necessary to maintain its ban, and people will willingly take on the small risk of federal sanctions if they know the state will not interfere. This increases when the state actively encourages “the market.”

Less restrictive state gun laws will likely have a similar impact on federal gun laws. It will make it that much more difficult for the feds to enforce any future federal gun control, and increase the likelihood that states with few limits will simply refuse to cooperate with federal enforcement efforts.


A3987 was referred to the Assembly Codes Committee. It was also sent to the state attorney general for an opinion. It must get a hearing in the Codes Committee and pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.

TJ Martinell