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Federal law establishes a baseline national standard regarding individuals’ eligibility to acquire and possess firearms. Under federal law, people are generally prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms if they have been convicted of a felony or some domestic violence misdemeanors, or if they are subject to certain court orders related to domestic violence or a serious mental condition. However, federal law merely provides a floor, and has notable gaps that allow individuals who have demonstrated significant risk factors for violence or self-harm to legally acquire and possess guns.

New York law generally prohibits an individual from possessing a long gun if he or she:

  • Has been certified not suitable to possess a long gun by the director or physician in charge of a hospital or institution for mental illness;
  • Has been convicted of a felony or “serious offense,” defined to include the following offenses under New York law, or the equivalent offense in another state: (1) illegally using, carrying or possessing a handgun or other dangerous weapon; (2) making or possessing burglar’s instruments; (3) buying or receiving stolen property; (4) unlawful entry into a building; (5) aiding escape from prison; certain kinds of disorderly conduct; (6) certain drug offenses or crimes involving sodomy or rape; (7) child endangerment; (8) certain crimes permitting or promoting prostitution; (9) certain kinds of stalking; and (10) certain violent or threatening crimes committed against a member of the same family or household, including assault, strangulation, menacing, harassment, and trespass.1

New York prohibits the purchase or acquisition of a handgun, rifle or shotgun by people who know that they are prohibited from possessing a firearm because they have been convicted of, or have had a warrant of arrest issued for, a felony or serious offense.2

New York law also provides that, subject to certain limited exceptions, no person shall be issued a license to carry, possess or dispose of a firearm (defined to include any handgun, short-barreled rifle, shotgun, antique firearm, black power rifled, black power shotgun, any muzzle-loading firearm, or assault weapon) unless he or she:

  • Is twenty one-years of age or older (except if he or she has been honorably discharged from the U.S. military or New York national guard, in which case the age limit does not apply);
  • Is of good moral character;
  • Has not been convicted anywhere of a felony or a serious offense (see above list of crimes deemed “serious offenses”);
  • Is not a fugitive from justice;
  • Is not an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance as defined by federal law at 21 U.S.C. § 802;
  • Being an alien: 1) is not illegally in the United States; or 2) has not be admitted into the United States under a non-immigrant visa;
  • Has not been discharged from the military under dishonorable conditions;
  • Having been a citizen of the United States, has not renounced his or her citizenship;
  • Has stated whether he or she has suffered from any mental illness;
  • Has not been involuntarily committed to a facility under the jurisdiction of the Department of Mental Hygiene pursuant to New York law, or has not been civilly confined in a secure treatment facility pursuant to New York law;
  • Has not had a handgun license revoked and is not under a suspension or ineligibility order due to a domestic violence restraining order;
  • Has successfully completed a firearms safety course and test (applicable in Westchester County only);
  • Has not had a guardian appointed for him or her pursuant to New York law, based on a determination that as a result of marked subnormal intelligence, mental illness, incapacity, condition or disease, he or she lacks the mental capacity to contract or manage his or her own affairs; and
  • Presents no good cause for the denial of the license.3

For information on the background check process used to enforce these provisions, see the Background Check Procedures in New York section.


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  1. N.Y. Penal Law §§ 265.00(17), 265.01.[]
  2. N.Y. Penal Law § 265.17.[]
  3. N.Y. Penal Law § 400.00(1). See N.Y. Penal Law § 265.00(3) (defining “firearm”).[]