By the Book

New York City's gun laws are among the nation's toughest

City Hall Takes on Guns

Mayor Bill de Blasio is serious about reducing gun violence—and he and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton are quick to point out that despite the headlines, the city is arguably much safer than it has been in the past, at least when it comes to guns.

“The overall trend in our crime categories continues to go down,” said Commissioner Bratton in January.

The numbers bear him out. At the beginning of the year, according to police stats, crimes have dropped citywide by almost two percent compared to last year. Through mid-April, gun arrests were up too: 967 so far this year, compared with 863 in all of 2015. And police have seized more than 1,000 illegal weapons.

Dig a bit deeper and the stats paint a murkier picture: murder rates, year after year, went up by about 4.5 percent, according to the same statistics.

No one, however, can dispute that the mayor and his chief are seriously trying to do something about guns. Since the start of the mayor’s term, City Hall has been steadily issuing new initiatives to combat gun violence. Each program was assigned weighty-sounding names such as the Gun Violence Crisis Management System, Gun Violence Suppression Division, and the latest, Project Fast Track, announced in January, which involved the deployment of an additional 200 officers to combat gun crimes. Project Fast Track also launched a new gun court to speed up firearms cases and is beefing up long term investigations to end the flow of illegal guns.

“It’s the first time in our city’s history that the city government, and all elements of law enforcement, and our court system will all work together to achieve a brand new approach to reducing gun violence,” de Blasio said at a January news conference. more >

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Domestic Violence and Guns

A deadly combination

On the evening of March 29, in a quiet Buffalo suburb, officers from the Orchard Park Police Department found David Lewczyk, 53, and Ruby Stiglmeier, 51, dead in the bedroom at Stiglmeier’s house. Stiglmeier had been shot three times, and Lewczyk, once to the head—a murder-suicide, police suspect. Lying with the bodies was a .22 caliber handgun that belonged to Lewczyk.

There had been an incident in December involving the couple, whose relationship has been described as on-again, off-again. Stiglmeier had called the police to report that Lewczyk, of the nearby town of Panama, had come into her home in a rage. He lit things on fire in the garage and left with some of her things, according to reports in local papers. An order of protection, requiring Lewczyk to stay away from Stiglmeier was put in place; however Stiglmeier asked instead for a refrain order, which essentially says that any inappropriate actions will be an offense, but allows the parties to see each other. Stiglmeier and Lewczyk continued to do so. Her Facebook references the two of them out hunting together in early March.

A checked box on the order of protection could have required Lewczyk to surrender any guns he owned. He also had a pending felony charge from December, which, had be been convicted, would have meant that he couldn’t own guns. But guns stayed out of the conversation. In the absence of any order, Lewczyk remained in legal possession of the .22 caliber pistol that appears to have become a murder/suicide weapon.If new bills passed in the New York State Assembly on May 3 become law, there will be a stronger emphasis on making sure guns stay out of the hands of domestic violence offenders. One bill, sponsored by New York State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin of Scarsdale, creates a protocol for the surrender of guns in certain domestic violence incidents. Another, sponsored by Daniel O’Donnell of Manhattan, expands a definition of which domestic violence offenses trigger gun restrictions for offenders.

Up until a few years ago, New York had no legal definition of what misdemeanors qualified someone to have their gun taken away. Federal law bans people who have committed certain domestic violence misdemeanors and family offenses from owning guns. But the federal guidelines are broad strokes. Individual states are then expected to create their own laws and protocols for actually enforcing the federal laws. In New York, that’s been fuzzy. Paulin’s bill, which she hopes will become law by June, will change one aspect of this. more >

When a gun is in the house, abused women are much more vulnerable to being killed, and we have to make sure to protect women in that circumstance.

New York City and Its Gun Laws

How strict are they?

It’s tougher to buy a gun here than in most places, but if you follow the rules you can probably get one. Here is how it works.

Who can buy a gun in New York City?

Anyone who is 21 years old or above and has American citizenship can buy a gun in New York City. Apart from American citizens, those who have an Alien Registration Card are eligible to purchase a gun, too. If someone has lived less than seven years in the country, then he or she would have to submit a good conduct certificate from their country of origin and two letter of references to certify their good character.

What is the process to buy a gun?

Before purchasing a gun, the buyer needs to have a handgun license or rifle/shotgun permit. (The two are separate and one cannot work for another. Fingerprints will be taken separately for both.) The License Division provides a 17-page document that contains the application form to get a handgun license, and a thirteen-page application for a rifle/shotgun permit. This is different from many other states in the country where people do not need a license to buy a gun.

What are the requirements for a license and how much does it cost?

For both handguns and rifle/shotguns, a license application requires two photographs, proof of residence, an original Social Security card, and the applicant’s New York State driver’s license. Often, other documents are asked for, such as a New York State income tax return or a current utilities bill. If you were ever arrested, you have to indicate that and show all the paperwork pertinent to it. This is a requirement even if the charges against you were dismissed. If you have an order of protection issued against you or you have had one issued against someone else, you need to show the records and details about it, too. If you need a gun, shotgun, or rifle because of your job, you need to indicate that, too, through a letter of necessity from your employer. more >

Do Fewer Guns Mean More Knives?


Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at a March 3 conference, where he said that people are turning to a different and ‘less deadly weapon’ because guns have been taken off the streets (NYC Mayor’s Office)

Is one reason for an increase in knife attacks in New York City because guns are getting harder to get? The mayor seems to think that may be true. Calling it a phenomenon that is “really worthy of examination by the media,” Bill de Blasio made the knife-gun connection at a press conference in March. “There’s been a major increase in gun seizures,” he said. “I’m not a criminologist, but I can safely say that guns are being taken off the street in an unprecedented way. Some people, unfortunately, are turning to a different weapon.”

But the experts are not so sure.  more >

Who Owns Guns? Nobody Knows

Last month, CBS News and Fox News asserted that there has been a rising boom in female gun ownership in the nation.

But swiftly following the release of these reports, The Trace, an independent, nonprofit media outlet “dedicated to expanding coverage of guns in the United States,” rebuked the claim. The Trace, which prides itself on accuracy about gun issues, insisted that “the rate at which women are buying firearms has remained mostly unchanged for decades,” calling the headlines nothing but a myth.

How are these publications looking into the same issue getting wildly contrasting findings about guns? Maybe because when it comes to national statistics about firearms, we are all fumbling in the dark. According to Andrew McClurg, professor of law at the University of Memphis and author of the forthcoming book, Guns and the Law: Cases and Materials, “The bottom line is we don’t have the foggiest notion about important data involving almost every single gun issue in America.”  more >