New York generally requires anyone wishing to possess a handgun to first obtain a license, following a background check.1 Applications must be made to the licensing authority in the city or county where the applicant resides, is principally employed, or has his or her principal place of business.2 Current photographs and fingerprints must be supplied with the application to facilitate the background check process.3 Except upon written notice to the applicant, applications must be processed within six months.4
The license must include the licensee’s photograph and a coupon to be removed and retained by any person disposing of a handgun to the licensee.5 The license must specify the weapon by caliber, make, model, manufacturer’s name and serial number, and must indicate if the handgun may be carried on the person or possessed in a particular location.6 A person licensed to carry or possess a pistol or revolver may apply at any time to his or her licensing officer for amendment of the license to include more weapons or to cancel weapons held under license. If granted, a record of the amendment describing the weapons involved must be filed by the licensing officer with the State Police.7
To be eligible for a handgun license, the applicant must be a person who:
- is twenty-one years of age or older, provided, however, that where such applicant has been honorably discharged from the United States army, navy, marine corps, air force or coast guard, or the national guard of the state of New York, no such age restriction shall apply;
- is of good moral character;
- has not been convicted anywhere of a felony or a serious offense;
- is not a fugitive from justice;
- is not an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance as defined in section 21 U.S.C. 802;
- being an alien (i) is not illegally or unlawfully in the United States or (ii) has not been admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa subject to the exception in 18 U.S.C. 922(y)(2);
- has not been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;
- has not renounced his or her United States citizenship;
- has stated whether he or she has ever suffered any mental illness;
- who has not been involuntarily committed to a facility under the jurisdiction of an office of the department of mental hygiene pursuant to article 9 or 15 of the mental hygiene law, article 732 or section 330.20 of the criminal procedure law, section 402 or 508 of the correction law, section 322.2 or 353.4 of the family court act, or has not been civilly confined in a secure treatment facility pursuant to article 10 of the mental hygiene law;
- who has not had a license revoked or who is not under a suspension or ineligibility order issued pursuant to the provisions of section 530.14 of the criminal procedure law or section 842-a of the family court act;
- in the county of Westchester, who has successfully completed a firearms safety course and test;
- who has not had a guardian appointed for him or her pursuant to any provision of state 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
- no good cause exists for the denial of the license.8
Firearm Safety Training
In the county of Westchester only, at the time of application, the licensing officer to which the license application is made must provide a copy of the safety course booklet to each license applicant. Before the license is issued, the licensing officer must require that the applicant submit a certificate of successful completion of a firearms safety course and test affirmed by a duly authorized instructor.9
Duration & Recertification
Licenses are generally valid until revoked, but they have a fixed duration in New York City (three years) and in Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties (five years). All licenses must be recertified to the Division of State Police every five years. Licenses issued before January 15, 2013, must be recertified by the license holder on or before January 31, 2018 and not sooner than January 31, 2017. New York state police must send a notice to all license holders who have not recertified by such time. The recertification will ask for the license holder’s name, date of birth, gender, race, residential address, social security number, firearms possessed by the license holder, and an affirmation that the license holder is not prohibited from possessing firearms. Failure to recertify a license will act as a revocation of the license.10
The license is valid throughout the state, except in New York City, where a special local permit granting validity is issued by New York City’s police commissioner.11
Disclosure of Information
New York law states that the name and address of any person to whom an application for any license has been granted is a public record. However, every license applicant must be provided with a form that gives the applicant an opportunity to request an exception from his or her application information being a public record. The form must provide each applicant an opportunity to specify the grounds on which he or she believes his or her application information should not be publicly disclosed. The grounds for preventing public disclosure of the applicant’s information are:
- The applicants life or safety may be endangered by disclosure because:
- The applicant is an active or retired police officer, peace officer, probation officer, parole officer, or corrections officer;
- The applicant is a protected person under a currently valid order of protection;
- The applicant is or was a witness in a criminal proceeding involving a criminal charge;
- The applicant is participating or previously participated as a juror in a criminal proceeding, or is or was a member of a grand jury; or
- The applicant is a spouse, domestic partner, or household member of an applicant who has reason to believe his or her life or safety may be endangered by disclosure due to specified reasons stated by the applicant;
- The applicant has reason to believe his or her life or safety may be endangered by disclosure due to reasons stated by the applicant;
- The applicant has reason to believe he or she may be subject to unwarranted harassment upon disclosure of such information.
The form must also be made available to individuals who applied for a license before January 15, 2013.12
The information submitted on the exception form shall be exempted from disclosure and must be kept separate and apart from all other records by the entity retaining such information.13
Upon receiving a request for an exception from disclosure, the licensing officer must grant the exception, unless the request is determined to be null and void. The request for exception may be submitted at any time, including after the license or recertification has been granted. If the request is granted, the application information shall not be public record.14
Each form provided for firearm license recertification must include an opportunity for the applicant to request an exception from the information provided on such form becoming a public record. The form must give the applicant an opportunity to either decline to request the exception or to specify the grounds of which he or she believes their information should not be publicly disclosed (the qualifying grounds are laid out above).15
If a request for an exception is determined to be null and void, a license applicant may request review of that determination pursuant to New York civil practice rules. The proceeding must commence within 30 days after service of the written notice containing the determination that the request for exception is null and void.16
Even with a granted exception, the information on an application for a firearm license cannot be disclosed to the public during the first 120 days. After January 15, 2013, the information for those who applied for a license before the exception form was made available, may be released on if such individuals did not file a request for an exception during the first 60 days following the availability of the exception form.17
The conviction of a license holder anywhere of a felony or serious offense or the license holder becoming ineligible to obtain a license will operate as a revocation of the license. A license may be revoked and cancelled at any time in the city of New York and in the counties of Nassau and Suffolk by the licensing officer and outside of the city of New York by any judge or justice of a court of record. The official revoking a license must give written notice to the Executive Department, Division of State Police, Albany, and must also notify the local police authorities.18
Whenever the New York Director of Community Services makes a report regarding a mental health patient who may be a danger to himself, herself or others, the Division of Criminal Justice Services must convey such information the appropriate licensing authority when it determines that the person named in the report possesses a firearms license. The licensing authority must then issue an order suspending or revoking the license.19
Whenever a person’s license is suspended or revoked, that person must surrender his or her license to the appropriate licensing official. In addition, any and all firearms possessed by the person must be surrendered to an appropriate law enforcement agency. If these firearms are not surrendered, law enforcement must remove all such weapons and declare them a nuisance.20
For more information on revocation procedures, see the Firearm Relinquishment section of our New York State Law Summary.
See our Licensing policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.
- N.Y. Penal Law §§ 265.00 et seq., 400.00, 400.01.
- N.Y. Penal Law § 400.00(3).
- Id., N.Y. Penal Law § 400.00(4).
- N.Y. Penal Law § 400.00(4-a).
- N.Y. Penal Law § 400.00(7).
- N.Y. Penal Law § 400.00(9).
- N.Y. Penal Law § 400.00(1).
- N.Y. Penal Law § 400.00(1)(f), (4-b).
- N.Y. Penal Law § 400.00(10).
- N.Y. Penal Law § 400.00(6).
- N.Y. Penal Law § 400.00(5)(a)-(b).
- N.Y. Penal Law § 400.00(5)(d).
- N.Y. Penal Law § 400.00(5)(e).
- N.Y. Penal Law § 400.00(5)(c).
- N.Y. Penal Law § 400.00(5)(g).
- N.Y. Penal Law § 400.00(5)(f).
- N.Y. Penal Law § 400.00(11)(a).
- N.Y. Penal Law § 400.00(11)(b).
- N.Y. Penal Law § 400.00(11)(c).