Gun laws in New York
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New York Civil Rights Law art. II, § 4 provides that "[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."
State law does not require a hunting license to own or possess long guns or pistols. State law does require a permit to own or possess a pistol. State law does not require a permit to own or possess a long gun unless it falls under the definition of assault weapon (guns that have certain features). In 2013, the State of New York banned the sale of assault weapons in the NY SAFE Act. The City of New York has its own set of laws and requires permits to own any long gun or pistol.
The U.S. Supreme Court case DC v. Heller 554 U.S. 570 (2008) ruled that "the right to bear arms" is an individual right and arms in common use are protected under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, and has further ruled that this right applies to residents in individual states in McDonald v. Chicago 561 U.S. 742 (2010).
In a 2012 ruling, a federal appeals court upheld New York's law requiring gun owners who seek a concealed weapon permit to prove a special need for protection; their decision in Kachalsky v. Cacace held that New York's laws do not violate the right to keep and bear arms.
In 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit asked the New York Court of Appeals whether part-time state residents are eligible for a pistol permit. In Osterweil v. Bartlett 999 N.E.2d 516, the New York Court of Appeals answered that certified question in the affirmative.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Summary table
- 3 Handgun licensing
- 4 Assault weapons
- 5 New York City
- 6 Rifles and shotguns, antique handguns
- 7 Non-resident travel throughout the state
- 8 Federal protections
- 9 Miscellaneous laws
- 10 NY SAFE Act
- 11 See also
- 12 References
New York is generally perceived to be a highly restrictive state for purchasing, possessing, or carrying firearms. This is especially the case for New York City (or NYC, and the city is officially incorporated as the City of New York) and its surrounding suburbs, and larger urban centers throughout the state where most New Yorkers live and work. In contrast, most rural areas in New York have relatively permissive firearms policies, particularly with respect to concealed carry.
Most of New York's gun laws are covered in two sections of New York Penal Law: Article 265 - Firearms and Other Dangerous Weapons; and Article 400 - Licensing and Other Provisions Relating to Firearms. These laws ban handgun possession and provide exemptions, including individuals licensed to carry handguns, or to possess them for other reasons, including sports, repair, or disposal. As the law's title indicates, New York's restrictive laws also apply to other items regarded as deadly weapons, such as certain knives, clubs, throwing stars, slingshots, chemical sprays, explosives, rockets, fireworks and stun guns.
Statewide, New York enforces various firearm related prohibitions, many proscriptions similarly listed in the now-expired Federal Assault Weapons Ban. On January 15, 2013, the state assault weapons ban was made more restrictive by the NY SAFE Act. Specified rifle magazines are banned: a) manufactured after 1994; and b) the magazine holds in excess of 10 rounds (handguns included). In December 2013, a federal judge ruled the seven-round magazine limitation is "'tenuous, straitened, and unsupported,' and therefore unconstitutional." Any semi-automatic rifle (with a detachable magazine) or shotgun (non-pump) with just one of these features are banned: 1) pistol grip; 2) bayonet lug; 3) telescoping or folding stock; 4) flash suppressor; 5) threaded barrel; or 6) grenade launcher. The SAFE Act expanded the ban to add the following features: 7) muzzle brake (Dec 2014 Federal court All references to muzzle "brake" be stricken); 8) muzzle compensator; 9) thumbhole stock; and 10) foregrip. All semi-automatic versions of assault-style rifles and shotguns purchased prior to January 15, 2013 are grandfathered, but must be registered within one year of the SAFE Act passage.
Permits issued in New York are valid statewide, except in NYC, unless validated by the police commissioner of that city. An NYC concealed carry license is valid throughout the state. NY Penal Code 400 (6).
For example, regardless of license, all New York residents with a concealed carry permit must still obtain a New York State Pistol Permit, apply for a purchase document for each handgun purchased, and may possess only those handguns the license holder has registered with the state.
|Subject/Law||Long guns||Handguns||Relevant statutes||Notes|
|State permit to purchase?||No||Yes||S 265.20, S 265.01||No NYS permit is required for long guns. Handguns require a permit. Permits are issued by County or State Supreme Court judges/justices outside of New York City, Nassau and Suffolk Counties, with a background check. Permits for those wanting to carry concealed are issued on a "may issue" basis, whereas permits to merely purchase and possess handguns in the home are issued on a "shall issue" basis. There is an application fee for each permit, as well as an amendment fee for each handgun added to the permit. NOTE: Different laws apply for NYC|
|Firearm registration?||No||Yes||S 700.00, S 265.01||No registration for long guns. All handguns must be registered under a license. There is a $3 registration fee. Handguns are registered with purchase permit. The serial number and sale is noted down. It is illegal to possess any un-registered firearm. Antique weapons are exempted from this. All handguns must travel in the manner one's license is issued. No record is needed of previously owned handguns with law enforcement. *All rifles classified as assault weapons must be registered with the state by January 15, 2014. NOTE: Different laws apply for NYC|
|Owner license required?||No||Yes||S 265.20, S 265.01||No license is required for long guns. New York State has a handgun ban in place. Exceptions are to those who own a license. They are normally restricted to three types, residence or business premises permit (must issue generally), Target & Hunting and Unrestricted Carry. Target and hunting allows carry while engaged in those activities. Unrestricted allows carry at any time. All permits issued outside of New York City are not valid in New York City, EXCEPT for retired police and federal law enforcement officers with that status marked on their permit, and for armored car guards on duty. The minimum age to be issued a handgun license is 21 unless you are a former or current member of the armed forces or law enforcement. NOTE: Different laws apply for NYC|
|Carry permits required?||No||Yes||S 400.00||New York counties, and some police departments, issue pistol licenses on a "may issue" basis. Discretionary issuance policies vary widely across the state. Generally, it is harder to obtain a license in counties closer to large New York cities. Most counties that aren't a part of downstate New York have shall/reasonable issuance policies, but may administratively restrict time or place of carry (such as only for target shooting or hunting). It is not a crime to carry a weapon under a Target or Hunting permit for other purposes, but if caught or reported the permit will likely be revoked. Concealed carry without any kind of permit must be charged as a felony unless the weapon is unloaded and no ammunition for it is in possession of the person carrying. All permits are valid throughout the state, except in the City of New York, unless validated by the police commissioner of that city, NY Penal Law 400 (6). While New York law does not allow issuance of pistol licenses to non-residents, 2013 federal appeals court and State appeals court rulings clarified the residency requirement. This clarification allowed those domiciled outside of the state with a part-time residence in New York to be issued a permit at the discretion of the licensing officer.|
|Assault weapon law?||Yes||Yes||S 265.00, S 265.02||Possession of assault weapons is prohibited, except for those legally possessed on January 15, 2013 and registered with the state by January 15, 2014 or classified as an antique assault weapon. New York City, Buffalo, Albany, and Rochester have enacted their own assault weapon bans. Law enforcement and retired law enforcement are exempt from the assault weapons ban.|
|Magazine capacity restriction?||Yes||Yes||§ 265.02||Magazine size limited to 10 rounds. Law enforcement and retired law enforcement are exempt from the 10 round limit. Also exempt are antique high-quality magazines if registered to an associated antique assault weapon. Under the NY SAFE Act (signed on the 15th of January, 2013 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo) the magazine law was changed. A legal provision that mandated no more than 7 rounds that may be loaded into the magazine was struck down by a federal judge on December 31, 2013.|
|Title II (National Firearms Act) weapons restricted?||Yes||Yes||S 265.02, S 265.02||Ownership of machine guns, suppressors, short-barreled rifles, and short-barreled shotguns are prohibited to the average citizen. Destructive devices are permitted except for rockets with greater than 3 ounces of propellant, which are prohibited. AOW's are legal to own but are still required to be on a pistol permit. AOW's disguised as non-firearms are illegal.|
|Open carry?||Yes||No||S 265.35, S 265.01||The law is extremely vague on open carry. Open carry in public is not legal in most instances. While no law specifically bans open carry, a license to carry is issued to carry concealed as per penal law 400. Therefore, pistol permit holders must carry concealed. Open carry permitted while hunting and possibly on one's own property. Open carry of unloaded long guns is not explicitly prohibited by any law, but is generally not practiced.|
|Castle Doctrine Law?||Yes*||Yes*||§ 35.20||*New York has a castle doctrine law. It allows for the "use of (non-lethal) physical force in defense of premises and in defense of a person in the course of burglary." Lethal force is governed under §35.15.|
|State preemption of local restrictions?||No||No||None||New York preempts only handgun licensing. Places such as Buffalo, Rochester, Albany, and most notably New York City have put in more restrictive gun laws, such as licensing of long guns and 5-round magazine limits.|
|Peaceable journey laws?||Yes||Yes||S 265.10||With certain restrictions (see below), most notably magazines are not exempt. Some law enforcement agencies (notably the New York State Police) do not recognize the federal Firearm Owners Protection Act, and may detain or arrest non-residents transporting firearms through New York in accordance with FOPA. Individuals in such situations would then have to use FOPA as an affirmative defense to firearms-related charges in court.|
|Background checks required for private sales?||Yes||Yes||NY Gen Bus L § 898 (2012)||For firearm transfers between private parties, a licensed dealer must conduct a background check, provide documentation of the check to the New York State Police, and keep a record of the transaction.|
NOTE: Different laws in New York City (see below)
The purchase of a handgun in New York is limited to only those individuals who hold a valid pistol permit issued by a county or major city within New York and present to the seller a purchase document, issued by the licensing authority, with the specific make, model, caliber and serial number of the handgun indicated on the document. The possession of a handgun in New York is limited only to those individuals who hold a valid pistol license and are in possession of a registered handgun (one that appears on the license, indicating the specific make, model, caliber and serial number of the handgun). The carry of a handgun in New York is limited only to those individuals who hold a valid pistol license, possess a registered handgun, and are carrying said handgun in compliance with the restrictions as they appear on the license and other applicable state and federal law.
New York State Pistol Permits are not issued to out-of-state residents. However, New York will issue pistol licenses to part-time residents. New York does not honor licenses or permits from any other states, though some states will recognize New York licenses without a formal agreement.
Application for a handgun license is through the individual's county or major city of primary residence, usually the police or sheriff's department, or a separate licensing authority. In NYC, the licensing authority is the police commissioner. In Suffolk and Nassau counties on Long Island, the licensing officer is the county police commissioner or county sheriff, depending on where one resides. The licensing authority is a county court judge, or more rarely, a supreme court judge. State and FBI criminal records, along with state mental health records, are checked as part of the licensing process. In addition, the applicant will be required to ask friends or associates to act as personal references. These individuals may be required to fill out forms, varying in length by county, attesting to the applicant's 'good character.' Pistol licenses can take from less than four months to more than six months for approval, even though the law allows the licensing authorities no more than six months to process a license.
Types of licenses and restrictions
Two types of pistol permits can be issued: possess on premises and concealed carry. Concealed carry permits may be restricted, but restrictions do not have the force of law. Permits issued outside of NYC are not valid in NYC unless a special license is issued granting validity.
In addition to laws pertaining to the entire state, there are additional laws and statutes pertaining to licensing and permits in some of the major cities of the state. However, NYC is the only place a pistol license is restricted from. Carrying and must have an uninterrupted trip through the city with the gun and ammo locked up separately when traveling through NYC. Pistol licenses are generally of two types: carry or premises-only. "Premises-only" is the most common license issued in NYC and is supposed to be "Shall-Issue." Restrictions can be placed on either of the above types of licenses; for example, many jurisdictions allow handgun license holders to carry handguns only while hunting (i.e. sportsman's license) and/or traveling to and from the range (i.e. target license).
Regional and cultural differences throughout the state
Restrictions on handgun licenses in New York vary greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In contrast to "no carry" New York City, and some counties which only issue "to and from target shooting and hunting" licenses, many upstate counties issue unrestricted pistol licenses that allow unrestricted concealed carry of a loaded handgun (exceptions would be schools, court houses or rooms, and secure areas of airports).
This dichotomy in New York's handgun license policies (upstate rural vs. downstate urban) is an outgrowth of two specific cultural forces: the strength of home rule in the state, and the tradition of the various hunting seasons in the rural counties.
State law defines an assault weapon as:
- Semi-automatic rifles able to accept detachable magazines and one or more of the following:
- Folding or telescoping stock
- Pistol grip
- Bayonet mount
- Flash suppressor, or threaded barrel designed to accommodate one
- Grenade launcher (more precisely, a muzzle device that enables launching or firing rifle grenades, though this applies only to muzzle mounted grenade launchers and not those mounted externally).
- Thumbhole stock
- A second handgrip or a protruding grip that can be held by the non-trigger hand
- Semi-automatic rifles able to accept detachable magazines and one or more of the following:
- Semi-automatic pistols with detachable magazines and one or more of the following:
- Magazine that attaches outside the pistol grip
- Threaded barrel to attach barrel extender, flash suppressor, handgrip, or suppressor
- Barrel shroud that can be used as a handhold
- Unloaded weight of 50 oz (1.4 kg) or more
- A semi-automatic version of a fully automatic firearm
- A folding, telescoping or thumbhole stock
- Semi-automatic pistols with detachable magazines and one or more of the following:
"Large capacity feeding device" is any belt, drum, strip, magazine, or similar instrument used to feed ammunition into a firearm that has a capability of holding more than ten rounds.
The first exception for the previous assault weapons ban is that anything classified above is not an assault weapon if manufactured before September 13, 1994. However, with the new laws the only exception is for antique assault weapons that were manufactured fifty years prior to the current date. These firearms can still be continued to be purchased and sold so long as one registers after purchasing. This exemption also applies to high capacity magazines, however they must be specifically registered to the antique assault weapon. This loophole is the only way an ordinary citizen can still obtain assault weapons and high capacity magazines, such as G43's, older AR-15's, and M1 carbines (with bayonet lugs).
Police officers who are residents of the state may still own assault weapons and high capacity magazines. Retired police officers may also own assault weapons and high capacity magazines if they acquired them during the course of their career.
Military members stationed within the state may still bring assault weapons into the state provided the military member has approval from his or her command.
New York City
|Subject/Law||Long guns||Handguns||Relevant statutes||Notes|
|Permit to Purchase?||Yes||Yes||§ 1-03, § 1-04, §2-03, § 5-01, § 5-25||Rifle/Shotgun Permit and Pistol Permit are prerequisites to purchase handguns and long guns respectively. A separate "Purchase Authorization" is required to purchase a handgun from a dealer, and one may not purchase a handgun more than once every 90 days. One may not purchase a rifle or shotgun more than once every 90 days. Upon purchase of a 5th handgun, residents must show evidence of possession of a gun safe for storage of firearms.|
|Firearm registration?||Yes||Yes||§ 1-03, § 1-04, §2-03||Registration for all firearms in place.|
|Owner license required?||Yes||Yes||§ 1-03, § 1-04, §2-03, § 5-01||Owner licenses are required for all guns.|
|Carry permits required?||Yes||Yes||§ 5-01, § 5-03, § 5-04||Permits are usually only issued to retired LEOs, celebrities, and armed guards. State permits (without an NYC endorsement) and out-of-state permits are not valid for concealed carry in NYC. However, individuals with a New York State Permit that does not have an NYC endorsement may transport a firearm through the city en route to and from locations outside of the city. The firearm must be unloaded and the journey through the city must be continuous and uninterrupted.|
|Assault weapon law?||Yes||Yes||§ 10-301||More restrictive version of New York's state laws, with a 5-round magazine limit for long guns and 10 for handguns.|
|NFA weapons restricted?||Yes||Yes||§ 10-301||All NFA weapons are outlawed.|
|Peaceable Journey laws?||Yes||No||§10-301 i, (1)||A non-resident may be arrested by police for transporting weapons through NYC and then be forced to reference the federal Firearm Owners Protection Act as an affirmative defense to charges of Unlawful Possession of a Weapon. Non-residents of NYC may transit the city with a rifle or shotgun without a permit, provided the weapon is unloaded and the person leaves the city within 24 hours.|
Residents of NYC who wish to obtain a pistol license must apply through the New York Police Department License Bureau at One Police Plaza in Lower Manhattan. The choice of licenses are: Unrestricted Concealed Carry License, Restricted Business Carry License, and Restricted Premises-only License. NYC Unrestricted Concealed Carry Licenses are valid throughout the rest of the state. Security guards and business people who regularly carry valuables may be issued a Restricted Business Carry License which is valid only while conducting the business specifically as it was described, in great detail, on the application for the license. NYC premises-only licenses are the licenses issued to average citizens who cannot show a need for self-defense greater than any another average citizen. They are clearly marked: RESTRICTED - NOT FOR CARRY and require the licensee to obtain special permission from the NYPD License Bureau to leave the city with the handgun, unless hunting with a valid hunter authorization card. Most licenses issued in NYC are for on-premises possession only, for self-defense within the home or business. Transporting the handgun to and from a target range is permitted, but the firearm must be unloaded and in a locked container directly to and from a range within city limits. Traveling through NYC with a license issued from another jurisdiction within the state must be done in accordance to law (locked box, in vehicle's trunk, no unnecessary stops).
A person carrying a firearm without a valid permit in NYC could be charged with "criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree," a felony. Unlawfully carrying a firearm in NYC is typically punishable by a prison term of 3 1/2 years. A high-profile example of the penalties associated with New York's restrictive gun laws is the 2-year prison sentence served by former New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress, after pleading guilty to a charge of Unlawful Possession of a Weapon, stemming from his accidentally shooting himself in the leg at an NYC nightclub with a concealed handgun, at which he did not have a valid NYC concealed carry permit. At the time of the accidental shooting, Burress had a Florida concealed carry license, which is not valid in New York.
NYC's firearms policies require that special permission must be obtained from City Hall for military members to carry weapons while performing their official duties within the city limits. For example, in November 2012, then-mayor Michael Bloomberg denied a request by the New York National Guard for its members to carry service weapons to help maintain order in devastated parts of the city in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, calling the presence of armed service members in Brooklyn "a bad idea," and further stating, "The NYPD is the only people we want on the street with guns." NYC's gun laws are currently being challenged by the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association in Federal Court, claiming the laws infringe on their Second Amendment rights.
City ordinances and New York's state laws also require medical facilities to notify the police within a specified period of time after admitting anyone with gunshot wounds. Hospitals or clinics that fail to comply with this requirement face fines and other penalties.
Rifles and shotguns, antique handguns
Prior to January 15, 2013, rifles deemed assault-style did not have to be registered in any jurisdiction within New York except for NYC. Since enactment of the NY SAFE Act, all grandfathered operable assault-style rifles purchased prior to January 15, 2013 must now be registered. The deadline to register these weapons was on or before January 14, 2014. NYC requires registration and has additional restrictions such as they cannot take a detachable magazine having a capacity greater than five rounds. Laws pertaining to the handling of rifles are in sharp contrast to those of handguns. For example, licensed carry of a handgun on one's person allows the handgun to be fully loaded, including within an automobile, while visiting a place of business or while crossing a public road while hunting. A rifle or shotgun cannot be kept loaded in any of the above circumstances except for a self-defense emergency. Antiques and replica handguns must be registered to be legally loaded and fired.
Non-resident travel throughout the state
State law provides restricted exceptions for interstate transportation of firearms by non-residents. Non-residents may transport any lawful firearm through the state to any place outside of it where an individual may lawfully possess and carry such firearm.
The firearm must be unloaded while in transit within the state. The firearm and any ammunition for it must not be easily accessible by anyone in the vehicle's driver or passenger area. For example, the gun and ammunition must be kept in the storage area of the vehicle, such as a car's "trunk." In vehicles without a storage area separate from the driver or passenger compartment, the firearm or ammunition shall be contained in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console." You may also transport a firearm for target competition purposes, "by a person who is a member or coach of an accredited college or university target pistol team" and "while attending or traveling to or from, an organized competitive pistol match or league competition under auspices of, or approved by, the National Rifle Association and in which he is a competitor, within 48 hours of such event or by a person who is a non-resident of the state while attending or traveling to or from an organized match sanctioned by the International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association and in which he is a competitor, within 48 hours of such event."
The state of New York is of particular concern to interstate motorists who travel with firearms because it separates all six New England states from the rest of the United States. This means that under the Firearm Owners Protection Act (FOPA), all people traveling through the state with firearms are protected by federal law, however they must have their firearms unloaded and locked in a hard case where they are not readily accessible (e.g. in the trunk of a vehicle).
Even with federal protections for those who properly secure their firearms and ammunition while transiting through New York, some police agencies in New York (notably the New York State Police and the New York Police Department) do not recognize the federal Firearm Owners Protection Act, and may still detain or arrest travelers, and place such travelers in a situation where they have to reference FOPA as an affirmative defense to criminal charges in court proceedings.
Youth and firearms: Youths between ages 14 and 21 may shoot a handgun at a range only if they are under the supervision of a military officer or licensed professional, have not been convicted of a felony, and do not seem to be a danger to themselves or others.
State assault weapons ban: New York's ban is the most restrictive in the country.
Cross registration of handguns: Some counties limit who can register a handgun on their license, with some allowing cross registration of a handgun from any other licensee, to licensed family members only, to no handgun can be cross registered. State law does not address this issue. Sharing use of a handgun not listed on your license is only allowed at a certified range with the licensed handgun owner present.
Examples of local laws: NYC, for example, limits the color of all guns and bans all BB guns, paintball guns and pellet guns. Yonkers requires a handgun license before one may ask for a license to own a BB or pellet handgun.
Renewal fees: There are periodic renewal fees, including on restricted carry licenses, like NYC's $340 for a three-year license. Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester and several other suburban counties allow a "to and from the range only" form of concealed carry. However this restriction carries no weight of law and penalties for violating such are administrative in nature and not criminal. "A State cannot impose a license, tax, or fee on a Constitutionally protected Right," see, Murdock v. Penn 319 US 105 (1942); Further, "The SCOTUS has held that licensing and registration of any Constitutional Right is itself unconstitutional," 321 US 573 (1944) (emphasis added for clarification). The Right to self-defense is a "central component" of the 2d Amendment, see, McDonald v. City of Chicago (SC 2010). The Right to "keep and bear arms" is both a "fundamental" and "individual right" and no State may abrogate these rights nor infringe upon them. California v. Ramos, 463US 992, 1014, 103 SCt 3446, 77 Led 2d 1171 (1983) supra., "State Law cannot reduce...a State cannot restrict the Right guaranteed in 'full incorporation' and the Bill of Rights is binding on Government." McDonald, supra.
Periodic renewal of licenses: Most counties in the state issue "lifetime" licenses. Elsewhere than in the City of New York and the counties of Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester, any license to carry or possess a pistol or revolver shall be in force and effect until revoked. Renewable licenses vary in cost and last from the 3-year New York City license to five years in the other counties, with New York City's license costing $340 every three years and by contrast, a renewal charge of $10.00 in Suffolk County every 5 years.
NY SAFE Act
In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and the 2012 Webster, New York shooting, New York became the first U.S. state to enact stricter gun control laws when it passed the NY SAFE Act on January 15, 2013. New measures included the redefining of what is considered an assault weapon, assault weapon registration, prohibition of sales of assault weapons, the prevention of selling or passing on registered assault weapons to friends or family, reducing the maximum allowed magazine capacity from ten rounds to seven rounds, background checks on almost all gun sales including private sales, background checks on all ammunition sales (has yet to go into effect), additional requirements for reporting of persons with mental health issues, and increased penalties for certain gun crimes. The SAFE Act also includes provisions allowing law enforcement to pre-emptively seize a person's firearms without a warrant or court order if they have probable cause that the person in question may be mentally unstable or intends to use the weapons to commit a crime.
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