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NATIONAL CONCEALED CARRY RECIPROCITY vs. NEW YORK STATE GUN LAWS

As New York firearms lawyers we think it is important to keep the public updated on possible significant changes to New York gun laws. The idea of national concealed carry reciprocity is not a new idea but it is an idea that may be close to becoming law. The theory is very simple. If a driver’s license, which has been held by the Courts to be a privilege not a right, is valid in all 50 States than why isn’t a license to carry a gun, which has been held by the Courts to be right not a privilege, also valid in all 50 States. While different versions of the bill have been introduced in varying forms in Congress since at least 2008, President-Elect Trump has expressed an interest in signing such legislation.

Currently HR 923 entitled Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2015 has 121 cosponsors. The Companion bill in the Senate of the same name has 35 cosponsors.

The issue is how will New York law, which is notoriously hostile to gun owners, interact with a National Concealed Carry law. According to the Congressional Research Service HR 923 can be summarized as follows: “[HR 923 a]mends the federal criminal code to authorize a person who is not prohibited from possessing, transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm under federal law, who is entitled and not prohibited from carrying a concealed firearm in his or her state of residence or who is carrying a valid state license or permit to carry a concealed weapon, and who is carrying a government-issued photographic identification document, to carry a concealed handgun (which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce, other than a machine gun or destructive device) in any state in accordance with the restrictions of that state. [And,]
Provides that in a state that allows the issuing authority for licenses or permits to carry concealed firearms to impose restrictions on the carrying of firearms by individual license or permit holders, an individual carrying a concealed handgun under this Act shall be permitted to carry it according to the same terms authorized by an unrestricted license or permit issued by such state.”

To further summarize, much like a driver’s license, your concealed carry license issued by any state will be valid in any other state. There are a few notable exceptions. Firstly, if you live in a place that is hostile to gun owners like New York and in particular New York City, or New Jersey and cannot get a concealed carry license in your home state, HR 923 will not permit you to carry a gun in your home state. Secondly, much the same way you must follow the rules of the road in the State that you are in when driving a car you will be required to adhere to the rules of the State that you are in when carrying a firearm in that State. For example, if you are in a State that bars possession of firearms in bars or house of worship, you will be required to adhere to those restrictions whether or not your home state permits such possession or not.

HR 923 is likely to set up some awkward situations. Firstly, it appears that magazine capacity limits, as well as possession of what New York calls “assault weapons” will continue to apply. Therefore, one carrying a “high capacity magazine” in New York New Jersey, hollow points in New Jersey or a handgun that violates the State’s “assault weapon” ban may still be subject to arrest.

One of the more comical scenarios that this new law will create is that while a pistol license issued in Westchester County, Nassau County or any place else in New York State, outside of the City, will not be valid in New York City, a license issued in Florida will be valid in New York City. This means a New Jersey resident with a Florida license may carry a gun in New York City while a Westchester resident with a New York State pistol license signed by a Westchester County Court Judge, may not travel a half mile into the Bronx with a firearm.

Many issues are not addressed by this bill. Who has the burden of establishing the defense to a New York State Weapons Possession charge under this section? In other words, is this a defense or an affirmative defense? What happens if New York State Police Officers simply refuse to comply? Can they be sued for arresting someone with a valid out-of-state license? Who will verify the validity of an out-of-state license? Will the person have to remain in custody while the police verify the validity of an out-of-state license? Is there a system in place to verify the validity of out-of-state licenses? How many people will be arrested for having the wrong type of weapon, magazine, cartridge or carrying a firearm in the wrong place? While HR 923 may be a step in the right direction it is not a magic bullet (pun intended) for fixing New York’s broken and abusive gun laws.

HR 923 is by no means a done deal and the proposed legislation may change significantly before being passed so please double and triple check both New York and Federal Law before travelling to New York with a firearm. As always, please feel free to contact us with any questions about New York firearms laws.