NYC has perhaps the most restrictive (and likely unconstitutional) gun laws in the united states. The politicians, media and police brass LOVE to say that if you’re caught with an unlicensed gun in city limits, there is a mandatory 3.5 year jail term. This is simply untrue. I know multiple people who were arrested for possession of an unlicensed firearm and they only spent the night in jail. The DA’s office in these cases found that they had little chance of getting a conviction in court so the cases never went to trial.
However, if you somehow manage to get a license, you’re even more protected. You can basically kill in self defense and have no serious legal issues as a result. This example from 2009 comes to mind.
But how do you get a permit? For a handgun, the process is slow and downright painful. There isn’t much information on the internet about this except for The NYPD’s propaganda page on the subject. I was able to find this internet posting on the subject though, so here it is – in full:
Date: 28 Sep 1994 21:13:28 -0400
A couple weeks ago, I posted what I went through to start the
process of getting a pistol permit in NY City. Here’s the final
version. I now have a NYC Pistol Permit (Target).
This post is long, reflecting the length and complexity of the
process. I have a copy of the NYC pistol permit rules, detailing
all the different permits available. If anyone wants more info,
drop me some e-mail.
The following rules apply to this particular permit:
– The gun must be stored unloaded and locked up at home, ammo
– I can only transport the gun when going directly to and from a
– The gun must be unloaded and locked up, ammo separate, when
being transported to and from the shooting site. It must be in
the back of my vehicle, not within easy access.
Below is what has been required, so far. I chose to use a permit
service that prepares the paperwork for me. Using the service is
not required, but it made things a little quicker and simpler,
and reduced the chance I’d waste time by screwing something up.
1) I visited the sporting goods store that offers the permit
service. I paid them $320.07 to do the following:
Prepare my application form.
Take the required photographs.
Provide me with a 1 year membership at their pistol range
(Normally $211.58 for first year)
Supply letter stating I belonged to their range.
Explain the process to me, and “pre-interview” me (see
2) It took them about a week to get the materials ready, so I
visited them again to pick it all up.
3) I got two postal money orders:
$170 for the application processing fee.
$50 for the fingerprinting and fingerprint search.
(Now raised to $74!).
4) I took the following to 1 Police Plaza, Room 110 in lower
Manhattan (Hours are Monday-Friday 8:30-3:00, meaning I had to
take time off work):
Application. (Lots of detailed info goes on here).
2 head and shoulders photo’s.
2 Postal money orders.
Birth certificate or Passport (proof of birthdate).
Proof of Residence (utility bill).
Notarized letter from range.
Once there, the clerk reviewed my application and paperwork,
assigned me a serial number, and had me fill out the back of three
fingerprint cards. One asked if I had ever received any
summonses. I asked if that includes traffic tickets. She had me
write a letter explaining that I have received (and paid) parking
tickets in the past, then had me take it to a local drug store to
have it notarized. I did that, and then she took three full sets
of fingerprints, plus a thumbprint that went on the application.
I was told that I would hear from them some time in the future
about coming in for an interview.
5) About 3.5 months later, I got a letter telling me to call
Police Officer X, who was my investigator, to arrange an
interview. It also asked me to have my supervisor at work fill
out a questionnaire, and to prepare a notarized letter explaining
the fact that my given first name is different from the name I use
daily (My given name is Greek, and I use an approximate English
translation). The questionnaire my boss completed asked questions
like “Is he sober on the job,” and asked if he thought I was OK to
be allowed to own a gun. I called to arrange the interview.
6) I took another day off work to go for the interview. Lasted
maybe 10-15 minutes. He was friendly enough, as all the people so
far have been. At least they’re not looking at me like a
slobbering gun nut lunatic. Questions included (I’m
What do you want to use the gun for?
How’d you hear about what is required for a permit?
Do you belong to a range?
How often do you want to shoot?
Do you have a lock box at home?
Do you understand the rules, and the consequences of breaking
We talked for a while, explained that I was interested in target
shooting, not in home defense (pre-interview helped here), and
told him I planned to shoot maybe twice a week at a couple
different sites. No problems. I asked for clarification of the
rules, and he explained it all to me. He asked if I wanted the
“residence/limited target” permit, which allows two trips per
month to the range, you specify them in advance and they are
listed on your permit, but lets you keep the gun loaded at home.
He told me my fingerprint cards had come back early, and that I’d
be getting a letter in two weeks or less that my permit was
approved and ready.
7) I got the letter notifying me that my permit was ready. I was
to show up at 1 Police Plaza between 9 AM and noon on Monday-
Thursday within 30 days of the date on the letter to receive my
permit. I took another day off work and drove in to Manhattan.
Paid $16.50 for two hours parking. I got there just before 9 AM
but still had to wait about 45 minutes. A clerk gave me some
forms to read and sign, including one release form stating that my
possession of a pistol permit was subject to disclosure under the
Freedom of Information Act. I reviewed the info on the permit,
and applied my thumb print to the back.
The clerk gave me the permit, a booklet explaining the rules, a
sheet of paper discussing the use of deadly physical force, some
more paperwork, and a purchase authorization slip. This last
piece of paper allows me to purchase one handgun. I must use it
within 30 days of issuance. If I don’t use it, I must return it
within 10 days of expiration. If I don’t return it, whether I use
it or not, my permit will be revoked.
8) I purchased my hand gun. They filled out a bunch of paperwork,
including the lower part of the purchase authorization form. The
gun must be presented for inspection at 1 Police Plaza within 72
hours of purchase.
9) I brought the gun, unloaded and locked in a case, to 1 Police
Plaza for inspection. Paid $11.50 for an hour of parking.
Inspection hours are noon to 2 PM weekdays. A police officer
checked the serial number, I filled out an index card, and the
clerk took back the authorization form. She then typed the pistol
ID information on my permit.
My target permit entitles me to one handgun. If I want more, I
have to request an additional authorization form, and give a
reason for wanting another gun. Processing the authorization
request takes 6 weeks. I have to pick it up in person, and
present the gun in person, as above.
In summary, the permit and acquisition of 1 handgun for target
Lots of paperwork and documentation.
Legwork to get everything ready.
$220 in fees to the city of New York.
Signing all your rights away.
$360 or so in other expenses and range membership fee.
This may vary.
Four trips to 1 Poice Plaza, requiring 3 days off work.
(I got the permit and presented the gun in one day).
A waiting period of four months. (usually 6 months).
I won’t count the vacation time I had to use or the gas I burned.
Each additional gun purchase requires two more trips to 1 Police
Plaza and 6 weeks or so waiting, assuming they approve it.
There are other varieties of permit, including premises permits
and various forms of carry permits. The latter require, I
believe, justification e.g. cash business, security guard, etc.
and are usually limited in one way or another.
The city also requires permits for rifles. Since I had a pistol
permit, the rifle permit took only one 10 minute visit (to a
different building in an different part of the city). Cost $55.
Without a pistol permit it takes weeks to months.
Each rifle must be registered, and you have to carry the
registration certificate whenever you transport it (unloaded and
locked in an opaque container, of course).
If anyone in other parts of the country is wondering how bad it
can get, just consider what we live with in NYC. Things can’t get
too much worse without them banning handgun ownership outright.
So there you have it. This posting is, at this point, 15 years old. (if anyone has up to date info, comment away). I’d imagine if anything they’ve made the permit process even more bizarre and lengthy since then. For extra credit, you can dig through forum postings such as this one. . If you want to get a handgun permit in NYC, and you live a normal busy life where days off from work aren’t really an option, then you’re better off moving to a different city.