The Licensing Process for Handguns in NYC

The process for obtaining a handgun license in New York City is long (between 3 - 6 months, and waits up to 8 months are not uncommon*), and compared to many other jurisdictions, rather expensive. It’s not particularly difficult, but it is tedious and incredibly time consuming. It tests your patience, and there is a lot of bureaucracy to deal with.

* update 5/27/10
Of late, the long waits seem to be getting much shorter, with many finding the whole process taking approximately 3 months. Many think that the Mayor's "reforms" in this regard are in response to the Heller decision, and his fear that the needlessly long waits might not hold up when NYC's gun laws eventually get challenged as unconstitutional. Regardless, the good news is that 8 month waits like the one I experienced, seem for now at least, to be a thing of the past.

The Application
There are 2 ways to complete the application itself. You can type it, or you can download it, fill it out electronically, and print it. Handwritten applications are not accepted, nor are photocopies. The majority of the questions are straight forward. Be sure to include your driver’s license and passport number (if you have either) on your Application Addendum in response to Question 19, as these are a “license or permit issued to you by any City, State or Federal agency.”

For those requiring duplicate certificates of dispositions (in response to Question 23), you need to go to your county clerk’s office. You will need to do this if you have any felony convictions. For smaller infractions (e.g. public urination, jaywalking, etc…) your need to go to the New York City Criminal Court Record Retrieval Unit, Room 201, located at 346 Broadway.

Along with the application itself, you will need the following:

Please note, bring originals, not copies of supporting documents. Also note, your application and any addendums must be notarized. This is a sample Application Addendum (PDF).

Included with the application is a request for the following letters. These letters must also be notarized.

Submit The Application
Applications must be submitted in person at 1 Police Plaza, License Division, Room 110, Monday - Friday between the hours of 8:30am - 3:00pm. You will be fingerprinted at that time.

Wait for the Letter…
Typically, you can wait anywhere from 1 - 3 months for a letter identifying the officer assigned to handle your application. The letter looks like this, and will ask you to schedule your interview along with his request for any further documentation. Many people are asked to supply an Affidavit with familiarity of Article 35, Article 265 and Article 400; an Affidavit of Proof of Employment; and a current utility bill. If the utility bill is not in your name, you must supply another Affidavit from the person whose name appears on the bill. I also had to supply my Social Security Card, current bank statements and 1040 Income Tax return along with photos of my home (because I am self employed), my marriage license, and my DMV abstract. I guess I’m just lucky. Call the officer during the hours stated on the letter and schedule the interview. You will also have to get your character reference letters together.

Reference Letters
Currently, I am told you are asked to supply 3 reference letters from people that have known you for at least 2 years (mine had to be from people that knew me at least 5 years, YMMV). The letter should state that you are “of good moral character.” The more detailed and personal it is, the better. This is a sample of a basic Reference Letter (PDF).

The Interview
It’s really no big deal. Look presentable, and be prepared. One individual’s questioning went something like this (my experience was similar):

Q: Why do you want a gun?
A: Home defense & target shooting.

Q: Where will you store the gun?
A: Unloaded, in a locked box or safe, with a trigger lock.

Q: Where will you store the ammo?
A: In a different locked box or safe.

Q: Have you ever owned a gun?
A: Yes or No, if yes be ready to supply details.

Q: Is your housemate aware you are applying for this permit?
A: Yes, he/she has already signed an affidavit to that end or “I live alone.”

Q: Will you be transporting the firearm?
A: Yes, to and from the gun range with no stops.

Q: How will you transport the firearm to and from the range?
A: Pistol in a locked box, unloaded and trigger locked. Ammunition in a separate container. Both the pistol and the ammo will be carried in a way so as to obscure their presence on my person.

Q: Have you ever been assaulted?
A: Yes or No. Provide details and dates if answer is yes.

Q: Has your domicile ever been robbed?
A: Yes or No. Provide details and dates if answer is yes.

Q: When is the use of deadly force permissible?
A: When someone has broken into my home and has demonstrated their intention to kill myself or someone else in my home.

The key thing to remember is that whenever you are storing or traveling with a firearm, it must be unloaded in a locked container or safe, with a trigger lock, ammunition kept separately.

Wait for the Approval/Denial Letter…
After waiting another 1 - 3 months, you will get your approval letter (hopefully). You now have 30 days to pick up your Purchase Authorization. If you are denied, you must file an appeal under Article 78. At this point, I strongly suggest obtaining a lawyer. You have 4 months from the date of the denial to appeal.

Pick Up the License & Purchase Authorization
Go back to 1 Police Plaza, with the original letter, Monday - Thursday between the hours of 9:00am - 12 noon. You will be photographed, and given your license along with one Purchase Authorization. You now have 30 days to purchase a handgun from an authorized FFL. You are now legal to rent/shoot guns in NYC.

Buy a Gun
You can purchase a firearm from any FFL, but purchases made from out of state must be transfered to an FFL in NYC. If you buy a new gun, it must be NY compliant. New guns must be shipped with spent casings fired from the manufacturer, contained in a sealed envelope. Used guns should be marked by the shipper as such. Make sure you fill out the BATFE form, get a receipt and have the FFL fill out the Purchase Authorization form.

Gun Inspection
Bring the receipt (2 copies - you keep the original they get the other), Purchase Authorization, and your firearm (unloaded, trigger locked, no mag in gun, no ammo on your person, in a locked case) to 1 Police Plaza, Monday - Thursday between the hours of 12 noon - 3pm (if you’re quick, you can pick up your PA in the morning, buy a gun, and get back for inspection the same day). Let the checkpoint know you are carrying a firearm (and let them know it’s properly secured). Then go for your gun inspection. Your gun will be inspected, and the serial # recorded. They will then put the gun’s make, model, caliber and serial # on the gun license and hand it to you. Make sure you verify that the information, especially the serial #, is correct! I’d say every other time I have put a new gun on my license, there has been some kind of typo. If your gun’s serial # doesn’t match your license, you can be arrested, even if it was a typo or mistake on their part. You can now purchase ammunition only for the caliber(s) listed on your license.

Be sure to request the Hunting Authorization card when you pick up your license if you ever want to leave the 5 boroughs into NY State on a Premises License.

Go Shooting
Now go shooting to your heart’s content. But first, learn how to properly operate and maintain your firearm (the manual of arms). Learn the 4 Cardinal Rules of gun safety, and practice them. Read your gun’s manual! I strongly suggest getting some good instruction in shooting fundamentals and/or using a firearm for self defense if you haven’t already.