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As New York Firearms Lawyers we are often asked about the legality of certain specific guns in New York given the very complex laws about what firearms may be owned in New York.  A relatively new pair of firearms present some very interesting legal issues given the current state of New York Law and just may fit into a loophole under existing New York gun laws.

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Mossberg Shockwave

The Mossberg Shockwave is a gun that has a barrel length of just over 14 inches and is a smooth bore (no rifling).  Its overall length is just over 26 inches and it has a magazine capacity of 5.  The shockwave is pump action and is fitted with a grip that appears to be a pistol grip that Mossberg refers to as a bird’s head pistol grip.

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black-handled knifeA New York appellate court recently published an opinion discussing the application of youthful offender status. The facts of the case are as follows. The juvenile was 18 years old when he was involved in an incident in which he stabbed a woman repeatedly and cut a bystander. The juvenile was indicted on charges of second-degree attempted murder, first-degree assault, and second-degree assault. He then pled guilty in exchange for a promise that his prison sentence would be capped at 20 years in addition to post-release supervision. In the defense counsel’s sentencing memorandum, counsel requested that the court treat the defendant as a youthful offender. The counselor also asked that any statements provided by the victims or their family members be disclosed with the pre-sentencing investigation report.

During the hearing on sentencing, defense counsel objected that he did not receive any victim impact letters with the report. The court denied counsel’s request to receive the statements. Oral impact statements were presented from the victim, the victim’s parents, and an intervening bystander injured during the incident. After the statements, the court remarked on the horrific nature of the crime and the life-long impact that the incident had on the victims and their families. The court made no mention of youthful offender status and imposed an aggregate sentence of 20 years’ prison time and five years’ supervision following release.

The defendant appealed, and the Appellate Division reversed the decision, remitting the matter to the sentencing court to make a determination based on the record regarding whether the defendant should receive youthful offender status. The Appellate Division had determined that the lower court reviewed witness statements that were not released to the defendant or included in the record, so the reviewing court asked for a list of the statements that were reviewed and a statement of reasons regarding why the statements were not released. According to the sentencing court, the Probation Department provided certain documents to the court based on a promise of confidentiality, leading the court to prevent their disclosure.

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New York Firearms Attorney Peter Tilem has been named to the Critical Response Team of the United States Concealed Carry Association. The USCCA Critical Response Team is an exclusive community of qualified attorneys that are committed to defending the rights of responsible gun owners in New York State and throughout the Country. USCCA is an organization that promotes firearms education, training and insurance to law abiding gun owners. The insurance covers members who are involved in a self-defense shooting and provides benefits for both legal defense and coverage in the event of a civil suit. The USCCA provides a list of pre-screened attorneys to its members. Mr. Tilem, who has been on the list of pre-screened attorneys for a number of years was recently named to the critical response team to provide 24 hour assistance to members in the event of a self defense incident. critical-response-team-logo

Mr. Tilem joins the USCCA Critical Response Team with extensive experience handling assault cases where the defense of “justification” or “self-defense” has been used. As a former senior prosecutor in the New York County District Attorney’s Office, Mr. Tilem was often called upon to investigate shootings and stabbings involving self-defense claims and has continued during his 25 year career defending those accused of assault but many of whom were acting in self-defense.

Mr. Tilem is well aware of New York’s expansive defense of justification which goes way beyond using physical force including deadly physical force to defend ones self and others against violent attack. Article 35 of the New York State Penal law includes a variety of situations where an individual may use physical force and even deadly physical force to: defend premises and to terminate and prevent or prevent a burglary, (See Penal Law sec. 35.20); use physical force to prevent a larceny and/or criminal mischief, (See Penal Law 35.25); use physical force including deadly physical force by a civilian to effect the arrest of a person who has committed certain violent offenses, (Penal Law 35.30).

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As New York Gun Lawyers we are aware that New York has a ban on possessing firearms magazines that are capable of containing more than 10 rounds. However, not everyone is as aware of the gun laws as they should be and this week two different cases in two opposite ends of New York State demonstrated how serious these cases are and how the right representation can make all of this difference in the world.

As was widely reported in the paper last week (see another article here) a former Army veteran who spent more than 9 years in the army was convicted of three felonies in Niagra County in far western New York, after he was found to be in possession of three magazines for a Glock 9mm handgun. Each of the magazines was capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. The Army veteran did not possess any firearm, only the magazines. He is awaiting sentencing in two months according to the reports and faces up to 21 years in prison.

Meanwhile, in far Northern New York, on the same day that the veteran was convicted a man was being arrested and charged for bringing two handguns that were illegal in New York along with two high capacity ammunition feeding devices across the Canadian border in New York. This man possessed both the firearms and the high capacity magazines, also for a Glock pistol (albeit for a different model). Within a period of a week, the individual in Northern New York had the gun charges dismissed and had the high capacity magazine charges reduced to two counts of disorderly conduct. He paid fines totaling $500 a state mandated surcharge of $125 and the record of the arrest and conviction were sealed.

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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,]

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In yet another victory in a New York firearms case, a Tilem & Associates client arrested in New York’s LaGuardia airport in September with an alleged “high capacity” magazine had all felony charges dismissed and only pled guilty to a non-criminal disorderly conduct, a violation but not a crime under the New York State Penal Law and paid a $250 fine. The record will be sealed.

New York State bans the possession of what it calls a “Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device.” NY Penal 265.00 (23). A Large Capacity Magazine Feeding Device is defined as “a magazine, belt, drum, feed strip, or similar device, that (a) has a capacity of, or that can be readily restored or converted to accept, more than ten rounds of ammunition, or (b) contains more than seven rounds of ammunition, or (c) is obtained after the effective date of the chapter of the laws of two thousand thirteen which amended this subdivision and has a capacity of, or that can be readily restored or converted to accept, more than seven rounds of ammunition . . .” Boiled down, and there are some exceptions, New York defines both a capacity limit and a load limit. Under New York Law, as written, one could either not possess a magazine with a CAPACITY of more than 10 rounds but if one had an old magazine with a ten round capacity one could only LOAD up to seven rounds into that magazine. An empty magazine with a capacity of more than 10 rounds is a class “D” violent felony under New York Law punishable by up to seven years in prison.

In the Federal case of NEW YORK STATE RIFLE AND PISTOL ASSOCIATION INC LLC v. Gerald J. Gill, the United States Court of Appeals struck down the seven round load limit finding it violated the Second Amendment but left the 10 round magazine capacity limit in place.

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A recent victory by Firearms Attorneys Tilem & Associates in Queens County Supreme Court demonstrates exactly how to beat a firearms charge even in gun hating states like New York. While New York prosecutors seek to strictly enforce New York’s draconian gun laws, it turns out that jurors and judges may not be completely sold on incarcerating lawful gun owners who run afoul ofNew York gun laws.

The client, who lawfully purchased his firearm in Florida and who was in New York for about three weeks before being arrested, was arrested and charged after he was stopped for not wearing a seatbelt. During the car stop, the police alleged that he acted nervously prompting them to ask the client if he had any weapons in his car. The Client told the police that he had his firearm in the center console and was immediately taken out of his car and arrested. A loaded 9 mm firearm was discovered in the center console of the vehicle and the client was charged with Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree, a charge which carries a mandatory minimum of 3 and ½ years in prison even for a first offender. The maximum he faced was 15 years in prison.

Plea Negotiations

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New York has banned the possession of stun guns by listing them as “per se” weapons in the Penal Law. Possession by a civilian even in a person’s home constitutes Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree, a class “A” misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. There is no license available for civilians to be able to possess stun guns. Rather New York, like Massachusetts and New Jersey have a total ban on civilian possession of stun guns. However, last month, in the first Second Amendment case decided by the Supreme Court in years and in a stunning rebuke of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, the United States Supreme Court struck down Massachusetts’ total ban on stun guns and found that stun guns, like any “bearable arms” are subject to the protections of the Second Amendment.

In Heller, in 2008 the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment “extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding.” Bearable arms, is a very broad term that encompasses much more than firearms which are the usual focus of Second Amendment jurisprudence thanks in large part to the National Rifle Association and other similar groups. As a result of the focus on firearms very little has been written about other “bearable arms.” Two years later in McDonald, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment is fully applicable to the States.

In the case of CAETANO v. MASSACHUSETTS, decided last month by the US Supreme Court, the Court criticized the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts’ analysis of the Massachusetts stun gun ban. The Massachusetts high court offered three explanations for why stun guns were not protected by the Second Amendment and the US high court rebuked them for each one explaining that each reason given was inconsistent with the Heller decision. First, the Massachusetts Court tried to explain that Stun Guns were not in general use at the time of ratification of the Second Amendment despite the fact that Heller specifically rejected that argument in 2008. Next the Massachusetts Court argued that Stun Guns were not adaptable for military use another argument specifically rejected in Heller. Lastly, the Massachusetts Court suggested that Stun Guns were an unusual weapon an argument that the Supreme Court equated with the first argument that they were not around during the time of ratification of the Second Amendment.

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As New York Criminal Defense Lawyers we have sounded the alarm on numerous occasions about the draconian enforcement of New York Knife laws by New York City Police Officers and the 5 New York City District Attorney’s Offices. Now an amendment to the New York State Penal Law may severely restrict those arrests if the bill passes the full Senate and the New York assembly. The scope of the problem is enormous. A report in the Village Voice found that more than 60,000 individuals have been arrested for possessing common pocket knives.

The problem stems from the definition of a “gravity knife” found in New York Penal Law 265.00(5). The definition essentially includes as a gravity knife, any lock back knife that can be opened by the application of centrifugal force. That is to say that if a 250 pound police officer can “flip” opened a knife, the knife can be a considered a gravity knife.

The proposed fix to the law would require prosecutors to prove “unlawful intent” before they can convict someone of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree to convict for possessing a Gravity Knife.

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Introduction

As experienced New York Second Amendment Lawyers we often think that we have seen it all but recently we handled a gun case using the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA) also commonly called HR218 as a defense to New York State gun charges under some unusual circumstances. Just as a primer, the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA) is a federal law that provides a defense to State weapons charges for both active law enforcement officers and “qualified retired law enforcement officers.” Essentially it gives Law Enforcement Officers and Retired Law Enforcement Officers the right to carry a firearm in all 50 states. Despite this well established Federal Law a gentleman who was both a Special Police Officer for the Sheriff’s Department and a retired Police Officer was arrested and charged with Criminal Possession of a Weapon in New York for having three unregistered handguns in his home.

Two questions that I immediately raised when I became the client’s third attorney were firstly, how can a law enforcement officer, a peace officer, a special police officer under New York law who according to the New York State Penal Law (PL §265.20) is exempt from prosecution be prosecuted in a New York State Court and secondly, how could the police, the prosecutor and the two prior criminal defense attorneys have missed these obvious defenses. Sadly, despite the successful conclusion of the case and the successful conclusion of the County’s futile attempt to revoke his pistol license, I still do not know the answers to my question.