To be sure, Mr. Burress got caught because of what appears to have been stupid and irresponsible behavior connected with the handgun. But he does not face prison for shooting himself. His impending mandatory sentence highlights the unfairness and unconstitutionality of New York City’s draconian gun laws.
Mr. Burress had previously had a handgun carry permit issued by Florida, for which he was required to pass a fingerprint‐based background check. As a player for the Giants, he moved to Totowa, N.J., where he kept a Glock pistol. And last Friday night, he reportedly went to the Latin Quarter nightclub in midtown Manhattan carrying the loaded gun in his sweatpants. Because New York state permits to possess or carry handguns are not issued to nonresidents, Mr. Burress could not apply for a New York City permit.
At the nightclub, the handgun accidentally discharged, shooting Mr. Burress in the right thigh. He was not seriously injured, but he has been charged with criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree.
It appears that he put the unholstered gun in the waistband of his sweatpants, and when it slipped, he grabbed for it, accidentally hitting the trigger. To make matters worse, according to press accounts, he was seen drinking and may have been consuming alcohol — which all firearms safety training (including the class he would have been required to take for his Florida permit) absolutely forbids for people handling guns. And of course Mr. Burress’s handgun should have been holstered to prevent unintentional movement of the trigger. Fortunately, his negligent discharge did not harm anyone else.
Mr. Burress’s behavior was bad. However, Mr. Burress is not facing prosecution for carelessness, but simply for carrying a weapon. This is unjust and perhaps unconstitutional. The legal issues are a bit tangled, but here is the background:
This summer, the Supreme Court ruled in District of Columbia v. Heller that the District’s handgun ban, and its ban on use of any firearm for self‐defense in the home, violated the Second Amendment, which guarantees the individual right to bear arms. D.C. is a federal enclave, and the Court did not rule whether the Second Amendment applies to state and local governments. But as other cases reach it in the wake of Heller, it will.