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As gun rights lawyers we try to keep the public updated on significant changes to New York gun laws.  Several new laws are going into effect in New York and gun owners need to be aware.

First, a new gun storage law was passed which makes it a misdemeanor for a gun owner that lives with children under 16 to leave the gun unlocked.  The measure amends penal law section 265.45 and leaving a gun unlocked when children live in the home is a class “A” misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail.  In addition, a new penal law section was added 265.50 which makes it a violation, punishable by 15 days in jail to leave a gun unlocked even if there are no children in the home.

Both of these safe storage laws are likely to be challenged and struck down because the United States Supreme Court has made it clear that the Second Amendment protects the right of a person to have a gun for self-defense.   By requiring that guns in your home be locked, the government is specifically preventing you from having an accessible gun for self defense.

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Guns, ammunition and magazines that were suppressed by the Judge

New York, Second Amendment attorney and NRA  Firearms instructor Peter Tilem scored a major victory in Rockland County Court earlier today, when the Judge holding a suppression hearing ruled that there was no probable cause for the arrest of his client and ordered 13 guns, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and high capacity magazines, called “high capacity ammunition feeding devices” suppressed, meaning that they could not be used as evidence at trial because of the fact that they were illegally seized.  The decision came after an intense suppression hearing in Rockland County Court where two senior police officers testified about the circumstances surrounding the arrest and interrogation of both individuals charged in a 12 count indictment.

Following reports of shots fired on July 8, 2018, in the area of the New York – New Jersey border in Rockland County, police from both New Jersey and New York police departments located three individuals firing weapons which were lawfully purchased and possessed in New Jersey.  The handguns were unlicensed in New York and the individuals were found less than a 1/4 mile over the border in New York.  In addition, some of the weapons which were lawful in New Jersey violated New York’s “Safe Act” and magazines that were legal in New Jersey violated New York’s ban on magazines capable of accepting more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

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New York has one of the most draconian and burdensome knife laws in the Country and as we have reported over almost a decade in this blog many innocent people have been caught up in New York’s knife law maze.  Last week, however, after several prior attempts at changing the law, Governor Cuomo finally signed a law that will change New York’s knife laws.1142076_knife_1

The Problem

As we wrote as early as 2010, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office made a deal with several retailers in Manhattan, including Home Depot and other major retailers for them to pay a financial penalty and stop selling gravity knives in New York.  The problem was that these knives were being sold by companies who paid only a relatively small financial penalty while citizens, many african-american and latino youths were being arrested and given criminal records for buying these knives which were readily available.  In 2016, we wrote another blog about this problem after the Village Voice wrote an extensive article about it.  According to the Village Voice article, there had been as many as 60,000 arrests for gravity knives in the preceding 10 years which put gravity knives in the top 10 most prosecuted cases.  Village Voice analysis also seemed to indicate that a disproportionate number of African-Americans and Latinos were prosecuted for gravity knives.

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As Second Amendment attorney Peter H. Tilem reported in a blog on April 24, 2016, New York and New Jersey’s outright ban on stun guns and tasers were unconstitutional.  stungunNow today, a Federal District Judge in upstate New York confirmed that opinion and enjoined the New York State Police from enforcing New York Penal Law sec 265.01 (1) as it applies to “Electronic Dart Guns” and “Electronic Stun Guns.”  The case entitled Avitabile v. Beach was decided earlier today by US District Judge David N. Hurd of the United States District Court for the Northern District in New York.  While the case is not necessarily binding in New York City, the case applies the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Caetano v. Massachusetts, which struck down the Massachusetts state ban on stun guns.

The issue actually began with the famous Second Amendment Case of Heller which was decided in 2008.  In knocking out a ban on handguns in Washington DC, the US Supreme Court in Heller ruled that the Second Amendment applied to “bearable” arms.  The Caetano decision, in knocking down a stun gun conviction in Massachusetts, made it very clear that a stun gun was a bearable arm as that term was used in Heller.

Besides being illegal, bans on stun guns and tasers are inherently illogical.  All states permit the possession of handguns to a degree.  Even New Jersey and New York City which effectively ban the possession of handguns outside the home, permit handgun possession in the home, with the appropriate license (in New York).  However, prior to today’s ruling, New York and New Jersey have a complete and total ban on the civilian possession of stun guns and tasers which are non-lethal.  This complete and total ban includes both possession inside the home and outside the home and does not even permit possession with a license.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York gun crime case discussing whether the arresting officer’s conduct violated the defendant’s constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Ultimately, the court concluded that the officer possessed a reasonable belief that the defendant was armed or had recently committed a crime, and thus it held that the search of the defendant was permissible.

Police Interaction with Citizens

Under New York law, there are four levels of interactions between a police officer and a citizen. The more evidence a police officer has to believe that they are in danger or that the suspect has committed a crime, the more authority the officer has to stop, detain, frisk, and search the individual.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was riding in a vehicle as the front-seat passenger, when the car was pulled over by police for a traffic violation. As one of the police officers approached the vehicle, he noticed that the defendant made a sudden move with his hand from his right shoulder to his lap area.

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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.

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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A 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.

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,]