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New York City rolls out new gun-free zones

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

New York City's Times Square is now a gun-free zone. New York made that designation after the Supreme Court struck down the state law that limited carrying guns. The state says it is responding within the terms of the ruling. The court made it harder to prohibit people from carrying weapons, but it allows the state to prohibit guns in certain places. Here's Matt Katz from our member station WNYC.

MATT KATZ, BYLINE: Under the state's old concealed weapon law, New Yorkers had to prove that they had a specific need, like hunting or self-defense, to carry a gun in public. It was quite restrictive. And in June, the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional, forcing the state to loosen its gun-permitting rules. Yet the court did allow an exception. Going forward, guns could be barred from what it called sensitive places.

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KATHY HOCHUL: These sensitive locations will include schools, colleges, daycares, libraries, restaurants that serve alcohol.

KATZ: At a press conference this week, Governor Kathy Hochul described the provisions of a new law she signed in the wake of the court's ruling. It lists several general locations as sensitive places, plus one specific site - the tourist-packed center of midtown Manhattan, where the billboards shine bright and the big ball drops on New Year's Eve - Times Square.

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HOCHUL: Supreme Court said you cannot carve out the entire borough of Manhattan, for example. We did not. We were rational.

KATZ: Rational enough to withstand continued court challenges? Time will tell. City officials have designated the official borders of Times Square quite broadly, over nearly three avenues and 13 blocks, with signs around the perimeter declaring it a gun-free zone.

Anke Pilz was visiting this week from Germany for the U.S. Open.

ANKE PILZ: Gives me quite a good feeling to know that no guns are allowed here, especially for us foreigners. It's not normal to wear a gun, so we appreciate it.

KATZ: Of course, the gun violence that plagues New York largely stems from weapons obtained and used illegally - without permits - regardless of any posted sign. And it remains unclear how police can even enforce the new gun-free rule.

New Yorker Joshua McCarthur, who runs a COVID testing booth in Times Square, is skeptical.

JOSHUA MCCARTHUR: What stops a kid from coming out here and just, like, start shooting everybody, like, for real, for real?

KATZ: The law creating gun-free zones also establishes new rules for gun permit applicants. They'll need 16 hours in a classroom and two hours of live firing, plus have their social media accounts subjected to review. If permit holders then visit Times Square, the gun will have to be safely stored and separated from its ammunition.

For NPR News in New York, I'm Matt Katz.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLYING LOTUS' "SURVIVORS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.