The Assault Weapon Ban which was passed as both a federal law and State law in many jurisdictions after a swell of media hysteria and which has since elapsed as a Federal ban is still alive and well in New York and New Jersey and a recent amendment to New York law has left a dangerous trap for innocent New Yorkers. Peter Tilem, the senior partner at Tilem & Campbell and former firearms trafficking prosecutor in the City of New York has dealt with a number of these cases as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney.

The Federal Assault Weapon Ban which was passed as a 10 year ban on “Assault Weapons” expired in 2004 after it was found to be absolutely useless. The original ban which is still in effect in New York banned rifles purely based upon cosmetic features. Since automatic weapons were already illegal, the so called assault weapon ban prohibited semi-automatic weapons that had two or more cosmetic features that were deemed to make them “Assault Weapons” the list of cosmetic features includes: a pistol grip, folding or collapsible stock, bayonet lug, flash suppressor and believe it or not if it was a pistol, the weight of the pistol. If the pistol weighed more than 50 ounces that was one of the two features that would make it an “Assault Weapon”. (Up until the hysteria surrounding the Assault Weapon Ban we were told that it was the small easily concealable pistols the should be banned.) In addition, certain guns were banned by name.

It should be noted that in New York but not New Jersey if you possessed one of these guns prior to September 14, 1994 you could continue to own the so called assault weapon. This provision made the law largely unenforceable since the prosecutor could not prove, if the gun was manufactured before September 14, 1994 when it was first possessed.

The major problems with the continued assault weapon ban in New York is that these so called assault weapons are widely available all over the country and while the ban in New York seems largely regulatory in nature in that it bans purely cosmetic features on rifles, pistols and shotguns the law seeks to send people to prison for up to 15 years in prison for unwitting violation of the New York ban. Rifles in New York State (outside of New York City) are not considered firearms and no licenses are needed to purchase or possess them but its legality can turn on some very specific, ill defined features and can turn an otherwise lawful rifle into an assault weapon.

The assault weapon ban remains a reality in New York and remains very convoluted in the way the laws are written and applied. The law firm of Tilem & Campbell handles a lot of firearms, weapons and assault weapons cases throughout New York State with tremendous success. Peter H. Tilem has 20 years of experience in both prosecuting and defending gun cases. If you have been arrested or charged with any weapon or gun charge, please contact this office to schedule a free consultation or visit us on the web at

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