State Designates Times Square as “Gun-Free” Zone



A laminated “gun-free zone” poster on Nikola Tesla Corner. Photo by Anvita Patwardhan

Alongside enormous billboards, dazzling digital screens and soaring skyscrapers, Midtown’s Times Square has a new addition dotting its landscape: letter-sized “gun-free zone” posters.

As of September 1, Times Square is now a legally designated “sensitive area,” just one location on a list that also includes schools, churches, theaters and many other sites throughout New York state. The law was implemented in response to the June Supreme Court ruling, which deemed a provision in the state’s concealed carry law requiring proper cause to obtain a license unconstitutional.

“My top priority will always be the safety of all 8.8 million people who call this city home, so while the Supreme Court decision may have opened an additional river feeding the sea of gun violence, we are doing everything we can to dam it and keep New York the safest big city in America,” said Mayor Eric Adams at an August 31 press conference.

New York is one of the first states to respond to the Supreme Court’s ruling and it comes at a time when citywide arrests for illegal gun possession are at a 27-year high, according to New York City Police Department data. So far this year, the NYPD has seized over 4,300 guns and made over 3,170 arrests for gun-related crimes.

The Time’s Square gun-free zone includes 9th Avenue to 6th Avenue from West 40th to 48th Street and 8th Avenue to 6th Avenue from 48th to 53rd Street.

Graphic from the Mayor’s Office depicts the newly-designated Times Square gun-free zone.

Under the new law, someone caught illegally carrying a gun within those parameters or in other “sensitive areas” will be arrested and charged with a felony, regardless of whether they have a concealed carry permit. They could face probation or jail time.

“If we were in a different city, it would make a difference,” said Anna Maria Delaney, a sophomore at CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “Here in New York, no one actually cares what’s on the banners.”

Thomas Tracy, a business administrator for Holy Cross Church located within the zone on West 42nd Street said the new law “helps the police and helps the community.”

Holy Cross Church has called Times Square home for 170 years and according to Tracy, the area sees a frequent rate of crime, requiring the NYPD to stop by his office multiple times a week to review surveillance footage.

“It’s really a horrendous area at 42nd Street,” he said. “It takes talent to deal with it.”

In addition to designating gun-free zones across the state, New York also strengthened the requirements to obtain a concealed carry permit, effective September 4. Applicants will now be required, among other criteria, to complete 16 hours of classroom training and two hours of live-fire drills to obtain a permit. They will also have to submit four character references and records of their social media accounts going back three years.

Westside Rifle & Pistol Range in Chelsea is Manhattan’s only commercial shooting range and gun club. It offers assistance to people seeking a concealed carry permit. After the Supreme Court ruling, Westside employees said the range experienced an influx of calls from people hoping to secure permits quickly.

The application process to obtain a license has normally taken at least two years, according to range officer John Aaron. “But they want it now,” he said. Because of the increase in demand, Aaron said he believes acquiring a permit might now take much longer.

Reacting to the new law, Westside owner Darren Leung said it won’t make a difference. “Do you think your common criminal is going to care about your gun-free zone,” he said. As a licensed gun owner he said, “In the instance of an assault, what if there was someone who’s trained, who would have ended the situation? You don’t see shooters at police stations. You see them at gun-free zones.”

Some experts say the success of this policy change will be dependent on law enforcement.

“Most research that has been conducted on gun policies have emphasized ways to limit the access to firearms, and less about enforcing geographic boundaries of where guns are allowed,” said Brian Lawton, associate professor of criminal justice at CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “Any real impact will be through the work of the NYPD,” he said.