Applying for a Pistol License – Do I Need an Attorney?

The majority of the phone calls that I receive are from individuals who call me after they have submitted their pistol license application and have received a denial letter from the licensing authority – the Judge, the Sheriff’s Office or the Police Commissioner.

I think that we can all agree that the best approach to any situation that could end up producing negative results for us is to be prepared before we enter the arena. Having your ducks all lined up before you start shooting certainly increases your chances of success over shooting blindly.

Oftentimes, an applicant will inquire from friends or the local gun shop about the application process — how long it will take to get approved, what their experience has been, what happens if they are denied and so on. Questions about the pistol licensing process and the timing of a decision from the licensing officer are generally not issues that require legal expertise.

Problems – many of them serious problems – begin to arise when the source begins offering legal advice. Where does the line between general banter about the application process and “legal advice” begin?

Many gun shops charge a fee to assist applicants with filling out the New York Pistol/Revolver License Application. If you have a squeaky clean background, you most likely don’t need to pay anyone to fill out the application for you, let along charge you for it, as it is pretty self-explanatory. But, if you feel more comfortable having the gun shop fill out your application for you, that’s your call.

On the other hand, if you have ANY – and I mean ANY – issues that may give rise to the need for legal advice or a possibility of being denied, you should not be seeking legal advice from someone who is not a lawyer who specializes in firearms law.

What issues could possibly arise that would require legal advice? While there is a State-wide New York State Pistol/Revolver Application form to be completed when applying for a pistol license, each County in New York requires different information and each County has its own process, licensing officers, views on firearm possession itself, and so forth.

Penal Law § 400.00 is actually a “shall issue” statute; the caveat is that the statute contains a host of mandatory enumerated disqualifiers (as well as a catch-all denial for “any good cause”) that may cause the application to be denied – and each licensing officer has his/her own idea of what “good cause” for a denial means as well.

The “Black and White Issues” that may automatically cause a denial of your application are a felony conviction, a conviction for a “serious offense” as defined by the Penal Law (which includes misdemeanor drug possession), being involuntary committed to a mental institution, being addicted to drugs, and a dishonorable discharge from the military, among others. However, that is not to say that anyone with such a disqualifier will never be able to possess a firearm – there are legal procedures available to remove the barriers to firearm and long gun possession for such individuals.

Under Federal Law it is a crime to possess a firearm based on, among other conditions, a felony conviction, convictions for domestic violence related charges (even misdemeanors), adjudication as a “mental defective” or having been committed to a mental institution, receiving a dishonorable discharge, or where an individual is subject to an Order of Protection. However, like the state law disqualifiers, there are legal procedures available to remove the barriers to firearm and long gun possession for such individuals.

“Gray Area Issues” that are not specifically defined in the Penal Law or Federal Law but may cause the denial of a pistol license application – even if unlawfully – include any prior arrest (even where the charge was outright dismissed and/or Adjourned in Contemplation of Dismissal), medication usage (even if prescribed), therapy (even if there was no involuntary commitment), a family court proceeding or divorce, a CPS complaint (even if unfounded), excessive traffic tickets (NYPD), any prior contact with law enforcement even if no arrest was made, living in a home with other individuals who are prohibited from possessing firearms…the list goes on and is not exhaustive as each applicant is viewed according to his/her own factual scenario.

Most important to remember: You will be submitting a document that you have sworn under the penalty of perjury is true. If the information that you provided is determined by the licensing officer and/or police agency performing the investigation to be false or misleading, you could not only be denied, you could be subject to criminal prosecution, you will be deemed an untruthful person (which means that you now do not meet the “moral character” requirement of §400.00 for a pistol license to be issued) and a denial on that ground will remain in your file and be taken into consideration if and when you choose to reapply in the future.

Why not get it right the first time?

Depending on the County in which you are applying, any issue can be used to deny a pistol license application if the licensing officer so desires. That is not to say that a denial based on a “gray area issue” (or an objectively immaterial reason) is legal or just, but the value of legal advice from an attorney who regularly deals with Second Amendment and licensing issues in New York is invaluable. We will spot the obvious “red flags” and other issues a licensing officer may use to deny your application. We can attack and deflate the issue before it arises and provide the licensing officer with a positive view of your application supported by the appropriate legal arguments and the legal authority to back it up.

As any first year law student knows – spotting the issues is 95% of the battle. Why not enter the arena armed and ready?

If you have any questions or concerns about whether you need an attorney to navigate the pistol license application process with you, schedule a consultation today.